12/09/2014 04:09 pm ET Updated Feb 08, 2015

Survive the Guilt-Ridden Holidays With the "5-Word Prayer"

Tis the season for pleasing and perfecting....

We shop to fulfill every wish. We bake everyone's favorite dish. We decorate trees and string lights. We sign cards and mail seasonal greetings. We light candles, recite prayers, and attend services.

But so much of our behaviors often come from two desires: to please others and to create perfection.

Let's look at pleasing others. In the holidays, we find ourselves caught up in trying to please others by joining in the merriment of the season. We do our best to create the best holiday ever with all the trappings of the season--food, gifts, parties, and decorations. But amid all the gaiety, we can push far beyond what's good for us.

Likewise, we strive for perfection with the perfect tree, the perfect gift, the perfect holiday outfit, and, of course, the perfect family. We have high expectations for others and for ourselves. Cultural traditions, religious responsibilities, and family expectations just add to the list of things that must be perfect.

Struggling to please others and be perfect often turns a joyful holiday season into a burden. They grease guilt-driven behavior into high gear during the holidays. Our guilt drives us to build up big expectations and then deliver on those with pleasing others and perfection.

"Expectation is the root of all heartache," William Shakespeare observed. He's right. The holidays build up huge expectations. The expectations come with high standards of judgment. We condemn ourselves for failing to please everyone and achieve perfection. The high holiday expectations set us up for failure.

We succumb to the expectations to prevent disappointment and are fearful of saying "no" to others. Both of those send us further into the guilt trap. Pressured with burdens of guilt trying to please and be perfect to meet the expectations of the holidays, we slip into behaviors that eat at our joy. We procrastinate, perform, and pretend--just to get through the holidays.

With so much holiday preparation and so little time, we procrastinate. We feel frustrated with these festive tasks heaped upon on our normal daily routine, so we put off until a better day, or until we have more time. But procrastination only compounds the feeling of guilt. We know that the holidays should not be this difficult. We see others easily accomplishing their "to do" lists, and that makes us feel worse.

The cultural, religious, and family expectations of what should be done and how to do it weigh heavy on us. We succumb to the pressures of traditions. As a result, we dutifully attend the required rituals and social events. We perform the traditions as tasks that render them meaningless. Pangs of guilt shoot through us as we see the disparity between how we perform the traditions and how the season should be celebrated.

To top off the guilt, we protect the onslaught of pressures by pretending that everything is just fine. We ignore the feelings within. We tune out our inner voice in order to maintain a semblance of normalcy just to make it through the holiday season.

What can we do to make it through this season with wisdom and grace kicking out the guilt?

To survive the holiday pressure, I offer this simple secret. Carve out five minutes a day for yourself. Sit down, quiet yourself, and say this easy five-word holiday prayer: "Whatever, Whenever, and Forever grateful."

"Lord, I accept WHATEVER you wish for me. WHENEVER it appears I know it's in the best timing, and I'll be FOREVER grateful knowing that it all is in your all loving hands".

Release the fuss, flurry, and flutter of the holidays to the Higher Power and enjoy this blessed Holiday Season, guilt free.

How do you handle the holiday guilt pangs that shoot through you? Thanks for your sharing and comments.