Listen to a podcast version of this article! Lourdes A. Rodríguez and Eileen Lawless talk about the 6Ps in more detail and provide some great examples of them in action.
The holidays are getting closer but not everyone feels excited about it. For some, they're an additional stressor or trigger depressing feelings. No matter how you feel about the holidays, the odds are that there is a gap between your expectations and reality.
Stephen Hawking stated, “One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect.” Yet, with milestones, life events, and holidays, we raise the “perfectionist” bar of expectations even higher. Before we commit and take that “all or nothing” approach to make the magic happen single-handedly, let us pause and reflect on the “6 Ps” of approaches to thrive and enjoy life’s events.
The Six Ps
Social media, marketing, consumerism, and many other variants are probably setting the guidelines for your holidays. Reflect on the many “hats” or roles you hold in life, work, and caregiving. As you look to the holidays, celebrations, and milestones, take the time to mindfully reflect on what the holidays mean to you, and what you would like to do. Ask yourself:
- Do they have a religious significance?
- Are they simply vacation time?
- Are there any family traditions that you miss, would like to continue, or no longer practice? Maybe the true meaning is no longer there.
- Do you miss how you spent the days with loved ones that are no longer in your life?
Pause and reflect on what you would like to do, and what works for your family, and focus on thriving, not on meeting unrealistic standards set by others.
Family traditions, culture, religions, and heritage can produce stress and guilt. Our extraordinary tenacity to make holidays and milestones beyond perfect affect our expectations, and “force us” into hasty commitments to host family, prepare meals, and carry out traditions "to the nines.”
It's easy to focus on what we are not doing for our loved ones, and on what is not being achieved. To thrive during the holidays, push away negative self-talk, needless comparisons, and self-criticism. Consider going away from social media and the altered images and posts. Push away those things that may affect you in negative ways. Keep in mind these strategies:
- Don’t compare yourself with others. Everyone’s realities are different, and it does not mean that yours are wrong/bad, and others are right/good.
- Stop feeling guilty if something does not turn out as desired.
- By keeping realistic expectations can push away and say no to what cannot be done.
Remember Eleanor Roosevelt's words “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Embrace your tenacity, compassion, and creativity in caregiving and use these gifts with holidays, milestones, and celebrations to create joy in upcoming events. When we pull in positive thoughts and vibes, we stop overanalyzing failure and don't allow fear to stifle our plans. Remember to learn from mistakes (for nothing is perfect) and see your incredible accomplishments and the tremendous value in what you do. With this perspective, utilize approaches that work best for you. Pulling in can also mean accepting or asking for help because, as with caregiving, we may not be able to do it alone. Don’t forget to:
- Remember what has value for you and recognize it.
- Practice resilience which is nothing else than adaptability.
- Have a clear idea of your role.
Very often, we believe that our value is based on how we meet the level of perfection set by others. Not meeting these standards can lead to low self-worth, anxiety, and other mental health issues like depression. Pivoting requires reflecting on our self-care, respite, and mental health, and also requires conversations with our loved ones. Involving and acknowledging what is important to those we care for and about with significant life events can help reiterate the significance of traditions and generate inclusive ideas that recognize all ages and roles in the family.
Start rethinking important ideas and topics and re-frame them. Some examples are:
- Only the brave ones ask for help and accept it when offered.
- Drop the hero cape and the idea that you must do everything. Explore the services and resources available in the community or among friends and relatives.
- When needed, adjust, create, or adapt the routines or traditions
As much as we cherish family traditions, sometimes we need to reevaluate them to accommodate our new reality or needs. There is nothing wrong with new traditions or changing what no longer works.
Rather than pile on perfection, devise a plan to uphold the needs of ourselves, our families, and our communities at all gatherings. Recognize what needs to be addressed and plan accordingly.
- What traditions do you want to uphold? How can you include and acknowledge traditions and celebrations with your family/ community? Learn to say no and to be happy with your own expectations.
- Difficult family dynamics? How do you enjoy yourself despite critical family members? Have an open conversation and plan how to ease the pain. Do not agree to do or go somewhere you are not comfortable.
- How can alternative arrangements be made when medical, mental health, or cognitive considerations make attending events outside the home difficult?
- Can meals, cleaning, and shopping responsibilities be shared with other family or community members? Can you accept help from others? Whom do you need to ask for help? Start planning early and whenever possible delegate.
- What challenges could you anticipate, and what will you do if they happen? What is your plan B?
- What information do you need to share to reduce stress and increase collective joy?
Whether caregiving or holiday planning, every step you take to knock out the perils of perfectionism is a success. Allowing yourself the time to pause, push away the negative, pull in the positive, pivot, and plan for your approaches and perspectives with all life events, the potential for success is endless.
Once you have practiced the first five P’s, it is time to have fun, enjoy the moment, and allow yourself and others to feel good. Be sure to include music, dancing, and family stories. Remember to divide and conquer and if needed, be selfish and pamper yourself!