12/09/2013 05:28 pm ET Updated Feb 08, 2014

The Emotional Weight of the Holidays

It's a loaded time of year. From Thanksgiving to Hanukkah, Christmas to Kwanzaa, by the time New Year's Eve comes around, you might even be "partied out"! With the amount of time and energy you spend planning, shopping and celebrating, it may come as no surprise that there's a lot of emotional weight associated with the holiday season.

Just like Christmas and Hanukkah gifts, emotional weight comes in all shapes and sizes. Good emotional weight can come in the form of time spent with family and friends. Bad emotional weight may come from bringing your holiday "baggage" to the dinner table. Maybe you're not looking forward to seeing your cousin's wife; maybe you forgot to take your pie out of the oven, and it burned to a crisp; perhaps you're stressed about this year's New Year's Eve celebration, because the drama outweighed the merriment last year. I offer you this piece of advice: let it go. It seems simple and cliché, but it's true. Letting go of the small stuff is the greatest gift you can give yourself this year. Here are a few tips to avoid the "bad" weight and keep your spirit in tip-top shape:

1. Lose the DRIP. I've learned over the years that one thing remains true no matter what kind of gathering you're at. It's best not to talk DRIP. That's Diet, Religion, Illness and Politics. Shout out to Steve Harvey for this acronym -- I heard him say it on his show and never forgot it! Believe it or not, you can have thoughtful, compelling, funny conversations without getting into personal drama. Words can weigh you down. For every dramatic gossipy conversation you have this holiday season, think of it like drinking a big glass of eggnog. When you swap it out for lighter fare, you'll feel better, and you may even get to know your friend better! Who knew your cousin's wife loves Parks and Recreation as much as you do?!

2. Don't spread yourself too thin. Your holiday calendar is probably already so diversified -- church, cooking, decorating, games, parties -- that any time another invitation (or obligation) pops up, there's opportunity to feel overwhelmed. Not only can the holiday season be exhausting, it can also be expensive! You don't have to say " yes" to everything that comes your way. As flattering as an invitation can be, don't let your demanding social calendar feel like an Olympic decathlon! It's important to find time to rest in order to be your best self any event you do decide to attend.

3. Be an observer. That's to say, "stay out of it." For example, if two guests are in a heated debate at a holiday fete, sometimes it's best to stay on the sidelines. Even helping resolve the issue can snowball and make the event a bigger deal that it should be. With so much going on around the holidays, being in the audience instead of in the action (good or bad) can open your eyes in a way that will allow you to be more appreciative of the little things. In times like these, I sometimes play a game with myself: the "my life as a movie" game. You simply enjoy certain events as they pass before you, cheer for those around you, and get excited for what will happen next! Think about why we love movies: they're fun, you're engaged in a story or with characters, but you relinquish control and simply observe and absorb. Around the holidays, "my life as a movie" can be a useful tool! It's not about being a wallflower, it's about pacing your involvement and feeling free to enter or exit situations as you see fit.

As a big fan of holiday music, I sing my own little version of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" this time of year. Or should I say "Light Christmas"? "May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be light." The simple tips above -- lose the DRIP; don't spread yourself too thin; observe and appreciate -- can help you spread the holiday cheer. And if all else fails, this is a wonderful time to reflect. Before your holiday season really takes speed, take a moment to reflect on last year and choose one thing that you cherish and one thing you'd like to do/go better. Now that's an activity that can fit into anyone's social calendar! There's so much to be thankful for that it's best to stay in the moment and focus on those around you, the joy they bring and the magic of this time of year.