Holidays Are About People, Not Perfection

Griswold-House

Clark Griswold’s Christmas light “masterpiece”

“The greatest gift you can give others is your best you — your healthiest you.”
– Joseph J. Sweere

Point to Ponder:
Will all of my excessive spending on gifts, decorations, food, and holiday hustle and bustle add JOY, VALUE and IMPORTANT MEMORIES to my relationships?  Or will it stress me out, make me crazy and possibly even sick?

Action Item:
Use your personal health and well-being as a filter for choosing whether you take on excessive tasks, events and spending this holiday season. If you use your filter well, better relationships and more joy will no doubt follow!

by Neissa Brown Springmann

by Neissa Brown Springmann

It’s likely you’ve seen the classic holiday movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo and Randy Quaid. It’s also likely that while you may not be as extreme as Clark Griswold, your expectations for creating the “perfect” holiday dinner, party or house, and finding the “perfect” gifts, decorations, tree and so on is fairly high. How do I know? Because despite personally setting an intention to focus on family, friends and faith each year, I still without fail become the ultimate consumer and drive myself (and my family) completely crazy trying to recreate images from Martha Stewart, Pottery Barn and now Pinterest. I dive headfirst into a tailspin of unnecessary, impractical and counterproductive tasks, and my goals subconsciously shift from people to perfection.  As the pendulum swings, the result is always poor nutrition, dehydration, sleep deprivation, a decrease in exercise, an increase in crankiness, stress, and then sickness (in that exact order) — everything I want to avoid!

Here are the simplified facts about how this physiological cycle works:

  1. When we strive for perfection, our bodies, minds and spirits become stressed by the never-ending, unsatisfying and exhausting process.
  2. When we are stressed, we typically don’t get enough sleep, which causes our bodies to naturally crave high carbohydrate foods (sweets, breads, alcohol, sugary drinks, etc).
  3. This high carbohydrate diet then leads to low energy and difficulty in burning off all of the extra calories. Therefore, the excess sugar that is not burned turns to fat, resulting in weight gain around the belly.
  4. This visceral belly fat is not only depressing and a downer (further adding to the vicious cycle), but it also increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes and diabetes and a wide variety of preventable illnesses and mood swings.

To avoid this process, we’ve got to stop being short-sighted and start seeing the big picture for what it really is.  If we are sincere in our belief that the holidays (and life in general) are really about people and not perfection, then we should begin making our health a top priority, because when we don’t take care of ourselves, we hurt our relationships. The stress that we unnecessarily create for ourselves causes illness and disease, restricting our quality of life and ultimately damaging our relationships.

I know I am not the only person who begins each holiday season with the plan to make it more about people and less about stuff. I’d also like to think that I am the only one who suffers from the seasonal diagnosis of “perfectionists,” however a recent Forbes study shows that I am certainly not alone, finding that the average American spends an additional $1,697 during the month of December! Here’s the breakdown:

  • Gifts: $849.50
  • Tree: $41.50
  • Cards: $32.43
  • Flora/Wreaths/Garland: $22.61
  • Food: $500.00
  • Alcohol, Wine, Spirits: $200.00
  • Decorations: $51.43

I don’t think I’m stretching to say that most of those additional expenses are going toward achieving some sort of holiday “perfection.”  So, after reviewing those extremely generous numbers and comparing them to your typical holiday spending habits, give yourself what I’d like to call a “Joy Test” by asking yourself this question:

Will all of my excessive spending on gifts, decorations, food, and holiday hustle and bustle this year add JOY, VALUE and IMPORTANT MEMORIES to my relationships? Or will it stress me out, make me crazy and possibly even sick?

Bottom line, if we allow our priorities to shift from people to perfection, our lives will become out of balance and unhealthy. Let’s stop this cycle! As we begin this holiday season and prepare for our 2014 goals, let’s make people our focus rather than perfection, and keep the gift-giving simple by giving our healthiest and best self to those around us. I have no doubt that if we succeed in that, this holiday season will be our most joy-filled, meaningful and memorable one yet.

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