December 2, 2014

How To Have Not So Horrible Holidays Part 2: Relax Already- OCD Alert!

Danger alert for perfectionists-holiday ahead!  If there is anything that brings out the misery for perfectionists (also known as Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder) it’s planning a holiday. Perfectionists live their lives with intense self-inflicted rules. There are so very many things they feel obligated to do and holidays, with their internal voice always telling them that they haven’t done enough or a good enough job. Here are just a few of them which will sound familiar to you or the perfectionist in your life.

FOR THE HOLIDAYS I FEEL LIKE I HAVE TO…:

Make everything wonderful for the children.

Decorate like Martha Stewart

Cook like Rachel Ray

Get out lots and lots of cards

Buy presents for everyone

Wrap presents artistically

Bake cookies

Invite everyone in the family

Attend every family event

Get along with co-workers or relatives I can’t stand

If some of those categories sound familiar to you, it means you are a perfectionist in danger of overdosing for the holidays. We all want to make this time of year special for ourselves and our families. Perfectionists can go through the roof on this stuff. So danger ahead! Let’s talk about how to get your anxiety under control and enjoy the holidays instead of making them a burden.

THE ROLE OF THE MEDIA

The gift-giving holidays of Christmas and Chanukah have become a merchandising bonanza. Current estimates are that 20% of retail sales occur during the winter holiday season. Because of this, we are inundated with advertising with holiday themes beginning as early as October and steadily increasing through New Years. Advertising portrays magnificent photos and videos of happy families gathered around the Thanksgiving turkey, gauzy portrayals of exuberant clean, well behaved and impeccably dressed children. All couples are happy and devoted, all grandparents are warm and loving in the advertising images we see absolutely everywhere. This puts pressure on all of us to live up to those images no matter how unrealistic they are.  Grocery stores, card stores, auto manufacturers, department stores, perfume and jewelry companies all get in on the act. It’s impossible to escape that pressure to make your own holidays a magical, wonderful time. These images are not realistic. They are a product of marketing industries with large budgets. It’s essential to establish your own ideas of what you want for your family during the holidays.

THE DOWNSIDE OF TRYING TOO HARD

There can be genuine problems with working beyond your limitations to make the holidays great. It’s easy to become resentful of others if they are not fully appreciative of all your effort. Younger children especially are not aware of the labor of their parents and can easily seem insufficiently grateful and pleased by meals or gifts produced with time consuming care by frustrated adults who then make the situation worse by yelling, “you’re a spoiled brat” or similar at a cranky child. When we put excessive effort in to something, it is easy to feel let down and disappointed by the reality of a situation. Reducing your effort and expectations makes a happy outcome easier.

CONCENTRATE YOUR EFFORTS

Try to determine what is most important to you., Is it being together? Is it preparing a meal? Is it trying to do something special for the children? Make a list of what you would like to have happen and choose which are the most important and which are the least important. Tackle those areas first that bring you the most satisfaction and put aside a few things at the bottom of the list. Only do those last items if you finish everything else early and still feel energetic and enthusiastic. Ask for help from spouses and children and relatives. Particpation is an essential part of enjoying a holiday. If someone else takes on a chore, let them do it the way they want to do it-don’t second guess.

Getting your anxiety under control is completely within your own power and one of the best ways to make the holidays a pleasure for you and the ones you love.  Call 561-212-5408 to set up an appointment, or email me to learn more.

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