Tips for holiday stress relief from Josselyne Herman-Saccio

Josselyne Herman Saccio gives us tips for holiday stress relief.

It's easy to get tense and overwhelmed when you're gearing up for the holidays and aiming for an "ideal" of what you think they should be.

When you sit down at the Thanksgiving table, how can you make the most of the occasion rather than be preoccupied with everything (and everyone) not living up to your expectations of how it should be?

In reality, no one has the time and energy to do all the things that you might think you should do to create your picture perfect holiday. The good news is you don't have to make the perfect party the enemy of your great gathering.

The key to overcoming unrealistic perfectionism is to identify some of the ideals and expectations you may have that can get in the way of having a great holiday. Once you understand that those ideals are not of your own making, for the most part, you can get clear about what you really want for your holidays.

Want to avoid the pitfall of perfection-seeking and have a holiday that is true to your desires?

Ask yourself these three simple questions:

What's your picture of the 'perfect' holiday?
Get clear on the picture in your head that you're trying to live up to. Maybe it's providing a gourmet spread of food, a house that's impeccably and tastefully decorated? Or maybe it's everything "just so" and ready ahead of time with no last-minute scramble. Is it your children are charming and well-behaved, your guests are impressed and no one gets into heated disagreements about politics? Think about what perfect means to you.

Where did that picture come from?  
Maybe it's from a spread in a glossy magazine. Or from things your mother or grandmother always emphasized. Are you aiming for "It's a Wonderful Life" or other the holiday pictures painted in other movies? Are you trying to keep up with the friend whose hosting skills you admire? Once you realize this picture isn't something you created, you're free to come up with your own version of what you want your holidays to be. That's where the last question comes into play.

What's really important to you?
Maybe it's not about perfection. Maybe it's about family and friends spending time together, guests feeling welcome in your home, everyone feeling appreciated and special. Maybe your special holiday is about being relaxed and having fun, or getting to be creative. Create a 'theme' for yourself and when your gathering is underway, keep that theme front and center. Theme suggestions might be: fun, relaxation, appreciation or anything that truly inspires you.

When it comes down to it, the perfectly ironed tablecloth and camera-ready living room probably aren't the things that will make your holiday truly memorable. Come up with a theme that expresses what gets at the heart of the holidays for you. Let that be your compass to guide you. Anytime you notice you're getting upset or annoyed, stop and ask yourself, "to be true to that theme, what would I do or say right now?"

Get clear about what really matters to you. Let your theme, such as appreciation, be your guide when it comes to planning what you will and will not do to prepare for the holidays. This will also help you stay grounded and present during the occasion.

The point is connecting with people - having them know you care, being gracious, whatever is important to you. Focus on the things that really matter to you and practice accepting people, your environment, the meal, and yourself, exactly as they are. You'll see that not-so-perfect can really be, well, perfect."

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