It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? But if you’re putting a ton of time and energy into having the perfect holiday, it’s probably not so wonderful. Focusing on perfection instead of simply enjoying the season can put a huge damper on your holiday happiness. Below, check out our top tips for letting go of perfectionism during the holidays to help you have the best possible time with your family, friends, and loved ones.
“Perfect” is an illusion. The perfect holiday doesn’t really exist! Instead, strive to have the best possible holiday by being grateful for what you have, enjoying the time spent with friends and family, and not worrying too much about what didn’t get done exactly as you wanted.
“Good enough” really is good enough. You don’t have to make the best dessert in the world, have the tidiest house ever, or wear the expensive designer shoes to the party. Instead, make (or buy!) a treat that looks and tastes good, don’t worry if there’s a little dog hair on the floor, and wear shoes that are comfortable and that won’t break the bank. You and your home will still look presentable, and your dessert will still get eaten, even if it’s not perfect!
Other people won’t know what they’re missing. If you planned to get your nails done in a festive holiday red, and you ran out of time and show up to Christmas dinner with unpolished nails, it’s no big deal! Only you—nobody else—knew you’d planned to paint your nails, so nobody’s going to be disappointed. Same deal if you ended up buying a cake that you’d actually planned to make, or decorating just the family room instead of every room in the house. If they didn’t expect this from you, then they won’t feel like they’re missing out and will enjoy whatever you did do!
Set limits. “No” is a word that might feel uncomfortable to say, but it’s an important word during a season jam-packed with commitments and obligations. You don’t have to go to everything (nor do you necessarily have time to!)—and you’ll be saving your sanity by saying no to events you don’t really enjoy. Choose the most meaningful events and commit to them. It’s okay to politely decline events that aren’t as meaningful to you, or that would take too much time and energy to participate in.
Take some “you” time. The holidays are a stressful time. Instead of giving your time and energy to everyone else, trying to be the perfect guest or host/hostess, be sure to take a little time for yourself. Schedule it on your calendar like you would any other appointment. Whether it’s reading a good book, buying yourself a pastry to savor, getting a massage, or just vegging out and binge-watching your favorite show for a night, your “you time” can help you fee recharged and ready to face the next holiday event.
Ask for, or be willing to accept, help. When people are focused on being perfect, they’re often unwilling to ask others for help, or accept any help that others offer. Don’t feel guilty about having help! If you’re the one hosting the holiday dinner, you don’t have to set the table, make the food, serve the food, clean up, and entertain everyone. Enlist your spouse, kids, and even some of your guests to help with a couple tasks, freeing you up to socialize and enjoy the day.
Scale back. If your holiday celebrations feel like just a little too much, consider scaling back. For example, why not have a Pollyanna where each person buys a nice gift for one person, instead of each member of the family buying for all the other family members? This can help reduce stress and financial worries. Or, instead of a big holiday dinner, why not organize a potluck, a dessert social, or a party with just appetizers? If each person brings their favorite dish, you don’t have to do a ton of cooking, and your guests get to enjoy a wide variety of foods. This approach is perfect for families who don’t love fancy, formal holiday meals.
Be proud and grateful. Instead of mentally beating yourself up for what you didn’t do exactly right, remind yourself of what you did do right that you can be proud of. Consider keeping a list of these things; when you’re having a bad day, you can look back at the list and be happy that you’ve accomplished more than you remembered! And don’t forget to be grateful for all that the holiday season brings with it. Instead of focusing on who didn’t show up to your party or hating that ugly sweater your aunt bought you, focus on the people you got to see, the special moments you enjoyed, and being thankful for any gifts you received.
Practice acceptance. Know going into the holidays that things likely won’t work out exactly as you planned them. Accepting this truth can help take the pressure off, allowing you to enjoy your holiday—the delicious foods, the special events, and the time spent with people you love—instead of focusing on negative things.
For Health Advocate members
If you’re a Health Advocate member with access to our EAP+Work/Life Program and have issues with stress this season or any time of year, talk to your Health Advocate Licensed Professional Counselor. You’ll receive free, confidential help, and if needed, referrals for additional support.