Most people enjoy the holiday season—but even those who love decorating, parties, shopping, gift exchanges, baking holiday confections and hosting family and friends occasionally find themselves feeling dread or overwhelmed by the expectations around them.

According to Kathleen McIntire, creator of Guiding Sign 101, these feelings of compulsion are often reflected by the “supposed to” and “should” that unfortunately fill this season.

“Any time you listen to what others say should be right for you, you ignore your own inner wisdom … and of course that leads to feelings of resistance,” McIntire said in a press release. “The bottom line is, your heart wants an authentic life that you consciously create.”

She said that the “authentic life means” doing the things that bring you joy and handling the holidays in a way that brings you peace.

“The disconnect between what we desire and what we do, happens all year long (and all life-long), but at the holidays we really notice,” McIntire said. “That’s because we really long for what the holidays stand for—love, friendship, joy, spiritual meaning—but we settle for representations of those things instead of what’s real. We just go through the motions and our spirits don’t get nourished. Instead, we all need to learn to listen to and follow the guidance of our hearts.”

To more fully enjoy the holiday season, McIntire suggests the following:

–“Get in touch with how you really feel about the holidays.”
–“Be aware of your family dynamics.”
–“Stop confusing ‘stuff’ with love.”
–“Decide to say no to at least one holiday obligation this year.”
–“Tell people early” about your changes in plans.
–“Do it with love” when sharing information about changes, trying to leave people with a positive feeling about the reasons you are changing expected plans and traditions.
–“Create new, more meaningful rituals and traditions.”