It’s the week before Christmas. If you celebrate this holiday or another holiday that falls at this time of year, you’ve probably spent the last week rushing around doing last minute shopping and meal prep and checking off your entire to do list. You’ve been fulfilling any and all social and familial obligations. You’re likely stressed about getting everything done in time, on top of all the everyday things you need to do like eating and sleeping and generally caring for yourself. You might feel like you need to make everything “perfect”, and that if something goes wrong it’ll be all your fault. And I bet you’re at least a bit exhausted and probably just want to take a break from it all.

I have good news, friends! You can take a break! You are allowed to take what you need and only give what you can during this season. Take that nap you know you need. Let yourself move a bit more slowly, even if that means you don’t do everything you had put on your list. If you don’t get all the cookies frosted or all the decorations put out or all the Christmas cards sent on time, the world will not end. Heck, even if you don’t make it to every planned festivity or see all the people you’re “supposed to”, everything is gonna be okay. No matter how hard we try, the holidays will never be perfect.

We put extraordinary expectations on ourselves and those around us this time of year, but why? Do we think that stressing ourselves out trying to make our lives look like a Hallmark movie will actually make us happy? It’s worth asking ourselves if this is really what we want for this time of year, and why we do all of this rushing anyway. Is that what the holidays are really about, for you? I bet we’ll all have different answers, but I think very few of us actually value that stressed out, rush around kind of feeling that so easily finds us this time of year.

The beautiful thing about letting go of our expectations for the holidays is that it allows us to be a bit more present with them. We get to actually enjoy the things we put so much effort into creating, whatever they may be. We can be still for a moment and feel the warmth of the fire and the glow of the lights on the tree. We can sit for those extra few minutes after everyone is done eating. We can feel the joy that comes with being present in the moment.

For me, this slowness is what I value most about the holidays. However, I’m a firm believer that we can make the holidays whatever we want them to be. If you like the Christmas-card-classic holiday feel, go for it! If you like to be with loved ones but don’t care if everyone is in red and green, make that happen. If you’d rather just be in the woods with unharvested Christmas trees, take yourself for a holiday hike. Whatever you want your holidays to look like, and whatever they do look like (because the two rarely match), remember the humanity in it all. It won’t ever be perfect. The holidays are human, just like us. And when we stop trying to make things perfect, we can let them be.

This is your reminder to let the holidays be what they are, to let them be free. Because, when we let our days be free, we are also free.