Perfectionism and the Holiday Season

Here we are so close to Christmas and so many things still to be done.

Have you had a chance to think about what Christmas means to you? If you’re not sure, there are dozens of sources out there more than willing to inform you about what should be important to you—chances are it will involve buying something.

Women are particularly vulnerable to the cultural and marketing strategies of the season because, like it or not, we bear the responsibility for maintaining relationships and holiday rituals.  Who hasn’t bought the latest home magazine at the checkout thinking, “if I started early enough, I could make 127 different kinds of cookies!” Or “This year Christmas is going to be perfect.” When you start thinking perfection, you know you’re in trouble because it doesn’t exist.  And if you’re going to make it through the season without that self-doubt hangover (I coulda, woulda, shoulda…) you need to be clear about what your limitations are and the limitations of those around you.

Here are some ideas to keep the holidays realistic:

  1. Be mindful. When you’re out shopping, be shopping. Concentrate on your surroundings. Be present for the music and decorations. When you’re doing something with family, concentrate on their faces, the love you feel for them, the gratitude you have for their presence. Don’t let your mind wander to past events or be mentally going over your to-do list while in the midst of fun.
  2. Be compassionate.  Imagine what’s it’s like to be a teacher  this time of year, a cashier, a police officer, an emergency response person.  Try to put yourself in those shoes.  Compassion asks us to be gentle of spirit. Above all, be compassionate toward yourself. You are only one person trying to do your best.  Being judgmental of yourself will not help you get more done.  And no one who cares about you wants you to suffer because you may have overextended yourself.
  3. Be forgiving. Forgive the person who cut you off in the mall, forgive those around you who you think should be more understanding,  forgive your partner for forgetting to pick up the little silver balls that go on those magazine cookies. Holding on to anger and self-righteousness will increase your stress and do little to help your relationships and your physical and spiritual health.
  4. Be meditative. Go online and find some breathing exercises and practice them daily, if even for five minutes.  When you’re stuck in traffic or things aren’t going the way they’re supposed to, take a deep breath and remember this too shall pass. Meditate or pray to keep your emotions on an even keel.
  5. Be accepting. You may have many feelings over the holidays that are not especially ‘festive’. Accept them and let them go.  Or write them out and then tear them up.  When you take time to ‘sit’ with your feelings, they will resolve on their own. Again, don’t be hard on yourself. You can’t change the feelings you have but you can change the behaviours that are triggered by your feelings.

This holiday season, try to be present in all your activities over the holidays (even cleaning the house!). You’ll find your days feel richer and more satisfying and you’ll be surprised how much calmer you’ll be when everyday problems arise.  Enjoy the enjoyable moments and the moments that are not so much? Let them go.

Tami Van Peteghen, MC, RSW

Tami is a counsellor and therapist new to the Revive Wellness office. She offers general counselling, couples counselling and is a private contractor for the employment assistance program at shepell.fgi. contact her at 855 603 8288 for more information.