Put Aside Perfection

What’s the secret to getting through the holidays with less stress? Be prepared. Be flexible. And follow our tips for holiday success with less stress .

Planning the perfect holiday this year? Cookies baking in the oven, a spotless house with lovely seasonal décor in each room, and of course, a happy family clean and dressed in all their finery for a home-cooked feast.

And then you wake up. The reality is that the holidays can be one of the most stressful times of the year. Many people put unrealistic expectations on themselves and their families. Even some people who are normally more laid back become seasonal perfectionists, caught up in the demands of giving and entertaining.

When you add tensions from spending time with relatives you don’t normally see, it can be a recipe for holiday STRESS, not holiday fun.

Nobody’s perfect. And those who try to be not only set themselves up to fail, but they also may be setting themselves up for emotional and physical difficulties. Placing impossibly high demands on yourself or others makes stress.

Research suggests that this type of stress can trigger depression and self-destructive behaviors, perhaps even suicide. Perfectionism also has been linked to migraines, insomnia, anxiety and sexual dysfunction.

While it’s OK to want to succeed, setting unrealistic goals can lead to severe self-criticism. Sometimes, perfectionists have unreasonable expectations for others, too. So they’re constantly disappointed when friends, family and coworkers fall short.

Common traits of perfectionism include:

  • Experiencing anxiety or severe distress over mistakes
  • Spending a lot of time worrying about what you’ve done or need to do
  • Being unable to enjoy achievements
  • Comparing yourself to others and feeling inadequate

Recognize a tendency toward perfectionism in yourself? Ask yourself whether this trait is causing you stress. When perfectionism keeps you from succeeding or feeling satisfied, or causes friction in relationships, it’s a problem.

Try these tactics to help keep perfectionism in check:

  • Try doing things imperfectly and see what happens. More than likely, the result won’t be the disaster you fear.
  • Before each task, ask, “Does this need to be perfect or just good enough?” Save your highest standards for things that really matter.


How will you keep your cool this winter? Tell us about your stress-busting techniques in the comments!

Sources: Mayo Clinic, 2014; Martha Stewart Living; The American Heart Association, 2014