03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Five Steps to Avoid a Holiday Meltdown

Stressing over the holidays is like burning a winning lottery ticket. We've got so much to celebrate, but heightened expectations and conflicting emotions often make us forget all we have to be grateful for.

Holiday stress is normal. But just because it's normal doesn't mean it's natural.

There's a barrage of guilt-inducing advice out there that only serves to feed our feelings of' not-enoughness. If your holidays feel more like "stress on steroids" than "peace on Earth", take a deep breath and follow these five simple steps to lower holiday stress:

1. Give yourself permission to be imperfect.

The #1 cause of holiday stress is believing everything has to be perfect. This in turn stems from thinking you're not good enough.

Well, you ARE good enough, even though you're not perfect! Just accept it and move on.

2. Let go of your high - and low - expectations.

Americans either revel in the holidays - or dread them. The difference lies in your EXPECTATIONS. Expecting people and situations to be anything but what they are, is like asking Santa to not like milk and cookies.

When you stop expecting people to change, it counterintuitively makes them easier to deal with. False expectations kill your chances for holiday happiness. Let go of your expectations and watch your stress level decrease.

3. Use Afformations.

Instead of saying, "I am calm," - which you probably don't believe - try asking, "Why am I so calm?"

I call these empowering questions AFFORMATIONS - NOT affirmations.

For example, most people have tried using an affirmation like, "I am rich." And your brain says, "Yeah, right!"

Instead, use an Afformations like, "Why do I have so much?" Doing this activates your brain's embedded presupposition factor, and you'll find yourself focusing on what you HAVE instead of what you LACK.

(Get a free Book of Afformations excerpt at

Which brings us to...

4. Focus on what you HAVE, not on what you LACK.

Many Americans are suffering from the disease of "not-enoughness". This comes from focusing on what you lack, which produces...more feelings of lack!

The irony is that the average American lives better than Louis XIV. Got indoor plumbing? Electricity? A computer? The Internet? He didn't.

Every morning, write five things you're grateful for. Focusing on what you HAVE will build feelings of confidence, self-worth and lower your stress level.

5. Find your Because.

Most people don't know why they're here on Earth. This produces feelings from mild frustration to thoughts of suicide to actually taking your own life. Numerous studies have shown that the suicide rate increases during the holidays, because people's mild feelings of hopelessness can be exacerbated by all the expectations (see above).

When you know your Because (your mission or purpose) and act in harmony with it, you stop doing bad habits that lead to more stress. Stressing over the holidays really is a bad habit you simply don't need any more.

Follow these simple steps and you'll quickly realize that not giving or getting the "perfect" gift pales in comparison to knowing you did the best you could WITH LOVE.

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Noah St. John is a wealth expert and author of The Secret Code of Success: 7 Hidden Steps to More Wealth and Happiness (HarperCollins).

He helps people get rid of their head trash and enjoy more wealth, freedom and abundance. Free book excerpt at