Holiday Stress? Just Deck the Halls!
'Tis the season. Presents, parties, plans, and more! It's a perfectionist and people-pleaser's dream. But it can easily turn into a nightmare. With the pressure to host the perfect party, plan the perfect appetizers (and main course...and desserts...and ten side dishes), host family from all over the country, and make everyone happy for the holidays, it can be an incredibly overwhelming time of year. If you're a perfectionist and/or people-pleaser, try these 12 quick tips from the anagram DECK THE HALLS to make your holiday a season of serenity instead of a season of stress.
Instead of trying to do it all yourself, delegate tasks to others. Have your husband clean up before the company arrives. Ask your mother-in-law to make a few of the side dishes. You can't do it all without feeling stressed and stretched to your limits, so spread the tasks around.
Instead of decorating 4 trees, going to every relative’s house in one day, and still trying to have time for the 18 different family traditions you want to embrace, make things simpler. Pick just a few things you really value and do only those things. Don't try to do it all.
It's tough not to get too frantic with everything you have to do, but slow down and get calm. Sip your cocoa slowly as you sit by the fire. Take some time alone to do an activity you enjoy. Take deep breaths when you feel stressed. When you're calm, you enjoy things more.
Know Your Limitations
Perfectionists and people-pleasers are pros at pushing themselves past the point of no return. If you find yourself bending over backwards, accommodating too many requests, or just doing too much, pull back. It's okay to be human, you can't do it all. Honor your limitations.
Instead of making everything from scratch, buy some ready-made options from a bakery or grocery store. Instead of perfectly and painstakingly wrapping every single gift, use gift bags and tissue paper. If there's a shortcut that will get you similar results, take it!
Have a Backup Plan
Not everything is going to go the way you want it to go. To avoid the inevitable disappointment when things go awry, have a backup plan (or two...or ten). If the turkey gets burned, pull out those frozen pizzas everyone loves. If Uncle Gerry sneezes all over the hand-mashed potatoes, pull out the package flakes and whip up some more.
Ease Up on Yourself
You are your own worst critic. It's true. When you don't live up to your own (or others') expectations, don't beat yourself up about it. Be kind to yourself; just as kind as you would be to someone you love. Let yourself make mistakes without being cruel to yourself.
Have Good Boundaries
Do you have a relative that asks invasive questions or argues non-stop about politics and makes everyone uncomfortable. Know what you're willing to engage in, or put up with, and what you're not. Don't be afraid to walk away from something that feels awkward or unhealthy.
I know it's hard, I know it means letting go of control (gasp!), but let people help you. Let your kids help decorate the tree, even if it means the ornaments won't be perfectly and evenly distributed. Let your cousins help you in the kitchen. Let others shoulder the burdens, too.
Laugh It Off or Cry It Out
The holidays are stressful, even at the best of times. Emotions get pent up and you need a release. Humor is a great coping mechanism, so if you drop a piece of pie on Aunt Millie's chihuahua, laugh it off. If you need a different release, go to a quiet place and let yourself have a good cry. It will help, I promise.
Let Yourself Enjoy Things
Don't get so wrapped up in being the perfect host, in all the decorations and trimmings of the holidays, that you forget to enjoy yourself. Sit by a window and watch the snow fall or the stars twinkle, watch your kids' faces light up as they bask in the joy of the holiday, and slowly savor those special holiday treats you spent so much time making.
There is so much to say "yes" to during the holidays, which makes it that much more important to say "no" when you need to. If your extended family wants to all be together on Christmas Eve like old times, but you are your partner want to wake up in the comfort of your own home, say "no" to the invitation. If people ask you to do more than you can, say "no." Remember to know and respect your limits so you can enjoy yourself.
With these quick tips, hopefully your holidays are simpler, more meaningful, and more peaceful than ever before. Things don't have to be perfect to be beautiful and memorable. So soak in all the warmth and light that the holidays offer without the burden of perfectionism and people-pleasing to weigh you down.
Happiest of Holidays to You and Yours!
Dr. Carly LeBaron