It’s the most wonderful time of the year! At least that’s what the song says. But for most of us (especially moms), the holidays bring an extra dose of stress, chaos, and busy, as if we don’t already struggle with those things enough. There are so many parties to attend, food to make, gifts to buy, cleaning to do. And unfortunately, the number of hours in our day still stays the same.
Christmas is supposed to be a season of wonder, one filled with joy, peace, hope, and happiness. If you usually find yourself at the end of a long December depleted, exhausted, and lacking all things peaceful and joyful, then it might be time to take some steps to intentionally create a more peaceful holiday season.
1. Envision your ideal Christmas season.
How do you want to feel at the end of December? What does a peaceful holiday season look like to you? What are your favorite parts about the holidays? What kinds of things steal your joy during the holiday season? What are your favorite Christmas memories?
Take some time to ponder these and other questions to help you create a vision in your mind of what a perfect holiday season would look like for you and your family. It is highly unlikely that every moment of your holiday season will follow your vision and end up perfect, but you’ll certainly never achieve your ideal if you don’t even know what that is. Defining for yourself what a great Christmas looks like will help steer you as you make choices and decisions throughout the holiday season.
Think the right thoughts.
You might also consider developing an intention or a mantra to think of throughout the season. If your mind usually thinks of the holidays as stressful, overwhelming, exhausting, anger-inducing, and all other things negative, then that is likely the type of season you will have. Your thoughts create your feelings, your feelings create your actions, your actions create your results, which then fuels more of the same thoughts. If you want to have better outcomes, you have to start by changing your thoughts. Tell yourself regularly that Christmas is beautiful. Remind yourself that the holidays are a time of peace and love. Think about things that are beautiful and awe-inducing.
2. Make a list (or two or three).
Calendar all events.
Get our your planner, bullet journal, Google Calendar, or family wall calendar (or all of the above) and plug in every event on your holiday schedule this year. Make sure that you include all of the school events, church events, family events, community events and even the family traditions you don’t want to forget. Map it all out so you have a clear vision of what is happening and when to help you plan and prepare. Be sure that everyone in the family has access to the calendar as well.
Create a gift list.
Next, grab a sheet of paper and write down every single person that needs a gift from someone in your household. Remember to include white elephant gifts, stocking stuffers, coworker/office party gifts, teacher gifts, and extra tips or gifts for service people like the mailman, cleaning lady, and hair stylist. Go through the list and create a budget for each person/gift to make sure you know from the start what you can spend.
If you have already purchased gifts or have ideas, jot those down next to each person as well. I also like to add a little note about when the gift is needed to make sure I’ve finished my shopping well in advance (last year I almost missed giving out teacher gifts because I planned to shop for them on the last day of school before Christmas break).
Develop a master to do list.
This is mostly just a brainstorm to start with. Use your calendar and your gift list to create a list of all of the things you can possibly need to do during the holiday season. From buying and wrapping gifts to getting the carpets cleaned and the silverware polished. In addition, you can organize and categorize your list, but just make sure to include everything you would like to get done.
3. Check it twice (prune, prune, prune).
Now is the time to cull all of the lists you just created and take away anything that doesn’t fit, anything that steals your joy, or anything that really just doesn’t need to happen.
Don’t attend all of the events you are invited to.
For your calendar, ask yourself what will happen if we don’t attend this event? How will you feel if you skip that holiday party? Who will be affected if you say “no” to that event? Many things will need to stay, but not everything is essential. Cut out the events that really aren’t important for your and your immediate family.
Trim the gift list. You don’t have to give a gift to all of the people.
Go through your gift list to determine if everyone is essential. Do you really need to buy a gift for your second cousin twice removed who only sometimes shows up for Christmas dinner? Could you work with your extended family to develop a new Christmas tradition of only doing gifts for kids, drawing names, doing a white elephant exchange, or only giving stocking stuffers?
Also, consider your budgets on your gift list. If your budget is out of control, think about ways to trim down the amounts for each person. Maybe you could create some homemade gifts for several people to lower your costs. You could possibly combine a husband and wife into one economical, but still appreciated gift for both of them. It can also be helpful to set limits on a number of gifts you give to your kids. Some people do something to read, something to wear, and something to give.
Delete unnecessary items from your to-do list.
Now grab your to-do list and cross off everything that isn’t essential. What will happen if you don’t scrub your baseboards before you host that party? Answer: you will have more time to hug and laugh with your kids. What will happen if you serve your holiday meal on paper plates so no one has to stand around washing your fine china by hand after the meal? Answer: you can actually sit down and enjoy your family and friends.
Don’t be weak. Cross off all of the things that don’t absolutely have to be done. Who cares what great Aunt Sally will think if you don’t do it? You don’t like her anyway. Delete, delete, delete. Very little is actually essential. Do only what is essential or what makes you happy. Set some limits and actually learn how to enjoy your holidays again.
So it turns out that if you have a dog that sheds as bad as mine and you are hosting a holiday party, you probably will have to run the vacuum a time or two this holiday season. And no matter how many people you trim from your gift list, there will likely be a few presents that need to be wrapped. Never fear, that is why you have other people in your life!
Your motherly job description does not have a line that says “do all of the things, all by yourself”. Go through your master to-do list and find things for other people to do. The kids can run the vacuum, the husband can wrap the gifts (who cares if they look pitiful, they will be torn open), the cleaning lady can scrub the baseboards if you really couldn’t drop that one. Find a job, find a person, and your job is done.
5. Start early and adjust your plan as needed.
Once you know what needs to be done, don’t wait until the last minute. The more you can do today, the more you can sit and relax tomorrow. If you made a to-do list, there is an end to it. Start early, work diligently, and get things done. If you come to a task and wonder why you are doing it, pause and consider how very little will be affected if you just stop and remove it from your list. Just because you have a list, doesn’t mean it all has to be done, even if you diligently pruned it. If you are running out of time or energy, stop doing it all. It’s not necessary.
6. Pause each day to savor and enjoy.
This probably should have been number one because this should be your top priority. But I wanted to make sure you had an organized plan first. Once you have a plan, don’t be ruled by your plan. Put your to-do list away for a little while every single day of the holiday season and relax. Laugh with your kids, relax with a book by the fire, cuddle under the covers with your husband, sip a mug of tea, read the Christmas story in the Bible. You can’t have a peaceful holiday if you are always on the go, give yourself the time and space to seek out the peace and joy. Remember that vision you had of your ideal Christmas season, do the things you envisioned yourself doing.
7. Avoid the people and situations that steal your joy and peace.
I hate shopping, so I don’t step foot in a store the entire month of December unless I absolutely have to. I do all of our gift shopping online and I send my husband out for our groceries. If you really don’t like some of your coworkers and you dread your company holiday party, give yourself permission to skip it this year. The world will not end, I promise.
Your thoughts create your feelings, so you can accomplish a lot just by changing your thoughts to things that are more joyful and peaceful. However, sometimes our external situations can make it really hard to think joyful and peaceful thoughts. I’m not saying we should always avoid hard things (in fact I believe the opposite), but if someone or some event makes you downright miserable, it is completely acceptable to set limits and remove it from your life or at least your holiday season.
8. Notice the beauty, wonder, and greatness around you.
We celebrate Christmas because of the gift of God’s Son coming to this earth to save us. Don’t be so busy doing all of the things that you forget to notice that gift and the many other gifts in your life. Be a noticer. Move more slowly through your day.
Watch the lights sparkle on your tree. Feel the snow fall on your cheeks. Smell the fragrance of your tree. Take delight in the smiles and laughs from your children. Savor the flavors of all your favorite holiday treats.
Joy and peace stem from noticing and appreciating the goodness around you and within you. Be grateful for your life and blessings. Give thanks for all that you have and all that you are. Appreciate the busy and the to-do list because a full life of family and friends means you are blessed beyond measure.
I wish you all the peace and joy and happiness this holiday season can bring. May you take the time to enjoy and be fully present in all the beauty and joy that Christmas can bring.
Today’s Action Step
Set aside some time this week to work through the planning steps in this post to get yourself organized and go into the holiday season with more peace and less busy. Feel free to share in the comments the one thing you are most looking forward to removing or adding in to create a more peaceful holiday.
Need a few books to curl up with in your newfound peaceful holiday? Here are some of the best books I’ve enjoyed this year.
(affiliate links, see disclosure)
The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
Love Warrior by Glennon Melton Doyle
Belgravia by Julian Fellowes