If you know me, you know I really love a good, sappy Hallmark movie, especially a Christmas one. During the holiday season there’s little I enjoy more than snuggling up on the couch and relaxing in front of one—there’s just something delightful and comforting about watching these movies. Everyone consumes an exorbitant amount of hot cocoa and Christmas cookies, the snow is always perfectly fluffy and white (and never actually appears convincingly cold), and everyone’s problems are all magically solved in the last few moments of the story. Hallmark movies are predictable, heartwarming, and completely unrealistic! How lovely! And what a great escape from reality!
But, that is exactly what a Hallmark movie is—an escape from reality and in no way a depiction of real life. As long as we all understand that, everything is okay. It’s when we start to try to recreate that “Hallmark reality” in our real lives that we can get into big trouble. If we expect to have a holiday like the ones we see in those movies, our expectations will never be met.
My own struggle with perfection
A few weeks ago I was getting my kids ready for a holiday picture session and I was fussing over everything being just so. My 5-year-old, who loves to draw, always has ink all over her hands and fingers. That day was no different. As we were scrubbing her little hands to no avail, my husband stopped and reminded me of something. He said something to the effect that the purpose of these photos is not to have them show perfection, but to help us remember what our children were like at this time in their lives.
He reminded me that when we look back at these photos years from now it will be a nice reminder of how much our daughter loves to draw and how that’s what she was really like, with ink all over her hands. I thanked him for that reminder and we left her hands alone. He was so right!
Enjoying the season for what it is
My holiday motto the past few years has been to be present, not perfect so I can let go of perfection and really focus on the things that are most important to me. My husband’s helpful reminder was just one example of how I can do that.
Do you struggle with wanting everything to be perfect during the holiday season? Is it hard for you when things go awry? Do you feel busy, stressed, and overwhelmed during the holidays? If your answer to any of those questions is yes, or you would just like to be able to be a little more present and enjoy yourself a little bit more, I understand. The holidays are a very full and busy time. There is a lot to do and there are a lot of places to be. Sometimes it feels like we turn into event coordinators during this time of year on top of everything else. But we don’t have to feel busy, stressed, and overwhelmed. It is possible to feel more present, more calm, and more joyful.
Here are 6 ways to be present, not perfect during the holidays:
- Plan ahead, but be flexible.
The idea here is to ask yourself what you can do now that will make things easier for you later. If there are things you can take care of ahead of time, it will allow you to be more present and enjoy yourself more when the event takes place.
Remember though, plans change. Be prepared to be flexible. It’s nice to have a plan of how things will go but it’s also helpful not to be too attached to it. If Christmas dinner gets served at 7:00 instead of 6:00, does it really matter? The most important thing is that family and friends are enjoying food together.
2. Be realistic and be willing to let some things go.
A common mistake people make is to over-fill their schedule or to plan to get more things done than is truly realistic. Do you need to have 7 desserts? Maybe 2 or 3 is more realistic? Do you need to have every ornament placed perfectly? Maybe it’s okay if your kids decide where they go.
Let some things go. Be mindful of all the things you’re trying to do during this time of year and ask yourself why you’re doing them. Which things are the most meaningful to you? Keep those things! If something isn’t meaningful or necessary, consider taking it off your plate or asking for help
3. Expect the unexpected.
Kids get sick, relatives don’t show up (or they bring an unexpected “plus one”), ornaments break, gifts don’t arrive on time, food gets burnt, and so on. These things will happen and there’s nothing we can do to change that. What we can do is expect something unusual to come up and, when it does, accept it for what it is. Having a little perspective is helpful. You can ask yourself if this is really that bad. Focus on what’s most important and don’t sweat the small stuff.
4. Have conversations with your family about what they want.
Over the years I’ve realized I was holding on to certain traditions that nobody actually cared about, including me. But, there are also certain traditions that really are important to my family. Talk to your family and decide, together, which things are most important. Then make time for those. Be mindful and intentional about how you spend your time during the holidays. Stop doing things that aren’t meaningful to anybody.
5. Remember to take time for yourself (and whatever you’re feeling is okay).
There tend to be a lot of “supposed to’s” at this time of year. You’re supposed to spend a lot of time with family and friends, you’re supposed to feel peace, joy, and merriment all season long… well, again, this isn’t a Hallmark movie. We all feel lots of feelings, just like at any other time of year, and they may be even stronger around the holidays. Whatever you feel is valid and real. I invite you to let go of some of those “supposed to’s”. Take time for yourself (self-care is even more necessary during the holidays) and allow yourself to feel your feelings. It’s okay to feel upset, disappointed, sad, overwhelmed, etc.
6. Remember to enjoy!
Yes, this time of year is busy, full, and chaotic but what is all that for if you don’t stop to enjoy yourself? This isn’t a Hallmark movie but there are moments that can feel like one. Be present and notice those Hallmark movie moments. Take time to relish them for the split seconds that they last.
What are some of your favorite moments during the holidays? For me, they are usually calm moments with my family just playing games or cozying up by the Christmas tree. I also adore holiday lights. They make me feel so happy, so I try to see as many as possible during the season.
If you take one thing away from all of this, I hope it’s that it’s okay not to have a “perfect” holiday. We may not be living in a Hallmark movie but we don’t need to be in order to have a meaningful and present holiday season. Be yourself, feel what you feel, ask for help, and take time to enjoy!
I’d love to hear from you how you help yourself be less perfect and more present during the holiday season. Please feel free to share with me!