If you’re a perfectionist, then the beginning of December is usually accompanied by feelings of anxiety, dread and nervous anticipation. Festive season brings with it long shopping lists, financial stress and family commitments that can often seem out of control and hard to navigate.
So how do we combat this and learn to let go this festive season?
Michelle Carlstrom, senior director of John Hopkins University’s Office of Work, Life and Engagement, told the Huffpost, that the key to a stress-free festive season lies in planning and organisation – not giving up control.
“I would never say [to someone focused on perfection] to let go of control entirely, because having control is often what makes perfectionists feel calm,” Carlstrom tells The Huffington Post. “But there are so many moving pieces in the holiday marathon that you cannot have control over, you have to understand what you can manage and what you can’t.”
Here we help you through the stress of the season with these simple ways to ensure a stress free day, without giving up control.
1. Keep it Simple
Planning and organisation is the key to keeping perfectionists calm this Christmas as well as throughout the holiday season. Overcommitting, overpromising or having high expectations can be the downfall for many. Don’t overdo it this festive season by keeping your priorities in check. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by invitations to events, or gatherings, instead pick a select few for good reasons and stick to it. Being able to say no, without the guilt, is an important part of ensuring you are spreading joy – not dread.
Becoming overwhelmed can occur when perfectionists try to visualise their perfect result. Don’t be disappointed if your tree doesn’t have enough baubles, or if your gingerbread house doesn’t look like the photo. Realistic goals make for an enjoyable experience during the holidays.
2. Get Your Priorities Right and Delegate
Think about what is most important to you about the holidays. Whether it is Christmas day or family gatherings around that time, delegation is key to ensuring a smooth and relaxing day either way.
Establish and set boundaries that allow you to be in control, whilst enlisting the help of others. If you’re hosting Christmas lunch at your house, then delegate dishes to family members who will be joining you. Don’t trust the cooking skills of some people? Then ask them to supply drinks, or help with decorating on the day. All these simple tasks will provide you with the assistance you need to let go and enjoy yourself.
3. Remove Expectations Entirely
If the idea of finding the perfect gift for that special someone is driving you insane then take a step back and think about the real reason we buy gifts for people. It’s not to out-do someone, or to gloat, it’s to say thank you and to show you care about that person, whoever they may be in your life.
If things don’t turn out exactly the way you planned, say a relation or friend has a negative response to your selected gift, then don’t panic. If the result is not what you intended then just remind yourself that your intentions were good, and you cannot control someone else’s reaction.
Own your intentions and let go of the results that are out of your control.
Gifts are material objects, they are nothing in the larger scheme of things.
4. Practice Gratitude
By reminding yourself what you are thankful for this holiday season, you are creating an effective way to channel positive energy and relieve stress.
By simply writing down what you are grateful for every time you get a bit overwhelmed or feel anxiety taking over, you are reminding yourself about the bigger (more important) picture.
5. Try Something New
A lot of the time, perfectionists struggle when their mind is focussed on recreating their ‘perfect’ idea of the holidays.
By trying something new, you are throwing a spanner in the works and ending the damning state of comparison. By organising something new entirely you remove the fear of inadequacy and bring in flexibility and surprise.
According to Dr. Scott Bea, a clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic: “human beings like control but we don’t have much of it — people just like the illusion,” he says. “Most good times occur when control is loose. Practicing new habits and giving up control can lead to greater feelings of well-being.”
Still struggling? Here are our quick tips to stop stress in its tracks.