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Holiday Stress Relief Tips For Full-Time And Seasonal Perfectionists

Posted: 12/14/2011 4:23 pm EST

You know who you are. You ordered personalized gifts for your coworkers -- you may even have made them by hand. You relieved everyone else in the family of all holiday decorating duties years ago because no one else knows how a garland should look on a mantle, and someone once put colored lights on the tree in your brief -- so brief-- absence. And now that you're hosting your holiday gathering? Thanks to your past hors d'oeuvres-making all-nighters and meltdowns about how your apartment is suddenly totally inappropriate as a venue, your significant other now finds a way to be mostly absent or lightly intoxicated in the days leading up to that festive evening.

The holidays can make perfectionists out of women who do a pretty good job of keeping obsessive-compulsive tendencies to a low boil the rest of the year. This is the season when we put the most pressure on ourselves to be flawless, says Alice D. Domar, Ph.D., author of Be Happy Without Being Perfect and founder of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health. That often results in misplacing your priorities. Dr. Jeff Szymanski, author of The Perfectionist's Handbook: Take Risks, Invite Criticism, and Make the Most of Your Mistakes, told The Huffington Post, "These rituals we engage in are supposed to be a fun way of connecting and celebrating, but somewhere along the way, the ritual, the rules we are following, cause us to lose sight of the intended outcome, and that's where the stress comes from."

Here are seven tips from Domar and Szymanski to lessen the pressure to be perfect around the holidays -- and actually enjoy yourself!

SLIDESHOW: How To Let Go Of Perfectionism During The Holidays

Re-evaluate "The Rules" And Make New Traditions
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1. Re-evaluate "The Rules" -- And Make New Traditions
Szymanski sees the core of perfectionism as "wanting to do something well," but whether this drive is healthy and works for you or against you is another question.

"We have in our heads an ideal image of how Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the holidays are supposed to look and we get so caught up in achieving that image that we forget what our intent was to begin with," he explained. "We tell ourselves, 'I have to do X' rather than thinking of the holidays as a collaborative and social process."

He advises having a frank discussion with your family about the holiday rituals you enjoy and that are not working for you. For example, his family no longer exchanges holiday gifts, but during the year if he sees something that makes him think of his sister or mother, he'll purchase it and send it to them. It feels less forced, he says, and he loves the feeling of buying them something they really like, rather than fulfilling an expectation to find the perfect holiday gift.