November 5

Making The Holidays Peaceful


Every Halloween, I make a point to carve a pumpkin. Since having kids, I have doubled down on the effort to make sure we fit pumpkin carving into our schedule. But this year, I found myself feeling overwhelmed with the thought of finding the time/deal with the mess. 

I love this time of year and love decorating for the Fall but it just wasn't happening. We had just gotten back from traveling and the kids were not adjusting well to the jetlag. I found myself getting anxious about not having decorations up and not enjoying Fall enough.

Nothing will make you not enjoy something more than putting pressure on yourself to enjoy it.

Instead of going down the spiral of feeling mad at myself for not creating a cozy, Fall home, I decided to completely let it go and not do any decorating or pumpkin carving. Instead, I allowed myself to fully enjoy everyone else's decorations and reminded myself that just because it didn't happen this year, doesn't mean it won't happen next year. I found such a sense of relief when I let go of the expectation that I had to keep a tradition going even though it was stressing me out this year. 

If you find yourself getting stressed out about what the holidays should look like, read on for tips on how to make this season a little more peaceful!

Key Takeaways

  • Set clear intentions for the holiday season by defining your ideal experience and identifying triggers.
  • Ease holiday stress by letting go of perfectionism and practicing self-care.
  • Plan ahead effectively with a schedule to stay organized and consider alternative gift options.
  • Incorporate mindfulness and acts of service to manage stress and find joy in giving back.

Set Clear Intentions for the Season

To make your holidays peaceful, it's important to begin by setting clear intentions for the season. Define what your ideal holiday experience looks like and identify any triggers that may cause stress or anxiety.

Define your ideal holiday experience

Your ideal holiday experience is unique to you. It's essential to take a moment and think about what would genuinely make you feel satisfied and content. For some, it might mean a quiet evening spent at home with close family, whereas for others, it could be an adventurous trip exploring new places.

Maybe your definition of the perfect holiday involves cooking up a feast for all your loved ones or curling up with a good book by the fireplace. What matters most is that your holidays reflect what brings you joy and peace rather than conforming to other people’s expectations or traditions.

Once you figure out what suits you best, let this vision guide your decisions throughout the season.

Identify your triggers

Keeping a peaceful holiday season often means knowing your triggers. These can be situations, people, or even specific events that make you feel stressed or anxious. Recognizing these elements ahead of time allows you to prepare for them and manage your expectations properly.

To understand these stressors, take some quiet moments to reflect on past holidays. Maybe crowded shopping malls set off anxiety while overspending leads to financial worries later. Or perhaps it's the pressure to create 'perfect' traditions or host impressive parties that disrupts your inner peace during this time.

By becoming aware of these triggers you can strategize how best to handle them and maintain your joyfulness throughout your holiday celebrations.

Ease Holiday Stress by Reducing Perfectionism

To ease holiday stress, it's important to let go of perfectionism and prioritize what truly matters. This is where I struggle the most but feel so much relief when I can let go. 

Prioritize what truly matters and simplify it

I realized that pumpkin carving was such an important tradition to me because it meant spending time with my family in a fun way. That was the part that actually mattered. So we ended up reading Halloween books, we had more time to play around in our costumes, and spent a ton of time playing in the leaves. It wasn't the perfect image I had in my mind, but when I was able to let go, it brought me so much joy. 

Valuing experiences over things can lead to feeling more fulfilled and less stressed during this special time.

If doing all of the decorating, cooking, and socializing is enjoyable for you, go for it. But, if you find yourself starting to feel overwhelmed or like you aren't having fun, simplify what you are doing. Maybe you usually bake dozens of cookies and share them with all your colleagues but this year it is stressing you out, consider buying treats from a local bakery or just baking them for your family. Or give yourself permission not to do it at all, despite what everyone's expectations are. 

Remember, the goal is not to have a picture-perfect holiday but rather one filled with peace. By prioritizing what matters most, you make room for joy and peace this season.

Practice self-care

To have a peaceful holiday season, it's important to prioritize self-care and know that perfectionism can quickly get in the way of self-care. Take time for yourself amidst all of the responsibilities and expectations. Find activities that bring you joy and relaxation, such as taking walks in nature or enjoying hot chocolate.

Allow yourself to rest and recharge when needed, even if it means saying no to certain commitments. Remember that taking care of yourself is not selfish or lazy, but rather an essential ingredient for a calm and joyful holiday experience. 

Plan Ahead and Effectively

Schedules help you stay organized and on top of your holiday preparations.

Make a schedule

To create a peaceful holiday season, it's important to make a schedule. This will help you stay organized and reduce stress. Here are some tips for effective scheduling:

  • Prioritize your activities and tasks based on importance.
  • Allocate specific time slots for each task to ensure they get done.
  • Set realistic deadlines for yourself to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Use a calendar or planner to keep track of your schedule.
  • Break down bigger tasks into smaller, manageable steps.
  • Allow for flexibility in your schedule to accommodate unexpected events or changes.

Consider alternative gift options

When it comes to gift-giving during the holiday season, consider alternative options that can bring joy and meaning to both you and the recipient. Instead of purchasing objects, think about giving experiences or meaningful gestures.

You could plan a special outing or activity together, like going on a hike or attending a cooking class. Alternatively, you could offer your time and service by volunteering at a local charity.

These alternative gifts not only show your thoughtfulness but also create lasting memories and strengthen relationships.

Incorporate Mindfulness and Service

Manage your holiday stress by incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine. I try to go on daily mindful walks, even if it's just five minutes, to look at all the leaves.

Manage stress through mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness during the holiday season can be a powerful tool for managing stress. By focusing on the present moment, we can cultivate a sense of calmness and serenity.

Take a few minutes each day to engage in mindful activities such as deep breathing, meditation, or simply paying attention to your surroundings. This can help reduce anxiety and bring about a greater sense of inner peace during this busy time of year.

Embracing mindfulness allows us to let go of worries about the future or regrets from the past, making it easier to enjoy and appreciate the present moment fully.

Find joy in giving back to others

I love the holiday season because it seems to bring out a sense of community with everyone you interact with. Whether it's volunteering at a local shelterdonating to a charity, or simply lending a hand to someone in your community, acts of kindness can bring immense joy and satisfaction. Giving back not only benefits others but also enriches our own lives by cultivating gratitude and empathy. 


Incorporating these strategies into your holiday season can help you create a peaceful and joyful experience. By setting clear intentionseasing stress through self-careplanning effectively, and incorporating mindfulness and service, you can bring more peace to your holidays.

Anne Rice, LPC, LMHC, CPCS

About the author

Anne is a licensed therapist in both New York and Georgia. She is the owner of Firefly Wellness Counseling located in the Atlanta area. Her team works with all members of the family struggling with anxiety, depression, and big life changes. Anne loves helping adults and teens navigate life's difficulties by creating a comfortable and safe place to share anything and everything that is on their minds. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology at Princeton University and her graduate degree in Counseling Psychology from Boston College.


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