The Holidays, Stress, & 5 Ways To Free Yourself From The Illusion of “Perfection”

unnamedThe holidays are supposed to be a special time of the year (Andy Williams famously sings “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”) and yet they can also be one of the most stressful times of the year. For instance, a few years ago, my mom bought this talking teddy bear for my nephew, Tyson, for Easter. You record a message and put the chip in the bear. The day before Easter when I was assembling the bear, the chip malfunctioned. The bear was a broken record with fur.  My mom yelled at me and said I “ruined Easter.”  Who would have thought that I had the power to single-handedly ruin a holiday celebrated by millions of people?  The logic was: If I assembled the bear earlier, we would have realized it didn’t work.  I cried.  (But I felt a little better when my toddler nephew called the day after Easter.  Tyson said, “Thank you for the bear. I really like it. It keeps talking and talking.”)  As a person with bipolar disorder, confrontations and being yelled at are triggers for me and I told my mom that. To my mom’s credit, she hasn’t yelled at me since that Easter.

My mom is a reasonable person. She’s not the only reasonable person who’s lost it over the holidays. In fact, I’ve seen parents who think Christmas will be ruined if they don’t get the season’s hottest toy even though their child is already getting twenty toys for Christmas. I’ve seen even-keeled people lose it when their gifts aren’t wrapped exactly how they want them to be—the Scotch tape is showing and there are too many folds. Don’t get me wrong: I understand the importance of getting the “it toy.” When I was six-years old, the “it toy” was Go Go My Walking Pup. But I would have enjoyed Christmas even if my Tita Zelda didn’t ship Go Go all the way over from California. Why is a holiday ruined because the gift-wrapping isn’t perfect or because the gingerbread house doesn’t look the way it looked on Pinterest?

Imperfect Ruined Holiday

Something happens to people over the holidays. It’s like a spell is cast over people—healthy and sick alike—called the “everything-must-be-perfect-spell.” But, for everything to be perfect—traffic, snow, computer problems—the commonplace annoyances of life must cease to exist. As someone who’s missed the past few Thanksgivings with family due to my autoimmune diseases, I’ve learned that being with loved ones is a gift in and of itself. While there are many things that cause the holidays to be stressful (chronically ill people know this all too well,) one source of stress is the widespread misconception that imperfect = ruined holiday.

Freeing Myself From the Illusion of Perfection

A few years ago I made a gingerbread house with my nephews. Let’s just say, the house did not look the way it looked on the box. But we learned to laugh about it.

Special Happens When We Least Expect It

One of my favorite Christmases is when all my relatives and I were lounging around the living room. Out of nowhere, my uncle started playing Chubby Checker’s Let’s Twist Again. We all got up and started twisting. It was a spontaneous moment of pure happiness. My mom’s family does a mean twist!

5 Tips for Dealing With Holiday Imperfections:

  1. Expect that things won’t be “perfect”—Perfection is a mirage.
  2. Value spontaneous moments—Sometimes, special happens when we’re not looking for it.
  3. Develop a Plan B if you might be alone—Being sick, I’m often not sure if I will see family. As I blogged about in 4 Tips on Celebrating a Holiday Alone, I always have something to look forward to—a program—even if I’m alone. And I dress up for the occasion because I’m worth dressing up for.
  4. Don’t compare yourself to others—Most people don’t broadcast their imperfect moments. How many crappy gingerbread cookies have you seen on Facebook?
  5. Listen to your body—You’re human. If you can’t attend every holiday party you’re invited to, don’t. Recently, my hands started hurting from writing holiday cards so I took a break. I’ve learned that not everything must happen in a one-month period. If I don’t finish all of my Hannukah and Christmas cards before the holidays are over, I can still send “just-because” cards next year. I have never received a just-because card that didn’t make me feel good, especially when I was depressed.

Your Stylist, Jessica Gimeno


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Hi there! I am a patient advocate, writer, and public speaker most well known for my TEDx Talk, “How to Get Stuff Done When You Are Depressed.” As someone who is juggling 5 illnesses: bipolar 2, myasthenia gravis, endometriosis, psoriasis, and asthma, I’m passionate about helping people who navigate life with both chronic physical & emotional pain. If you’re interested in hiring me to speak at your event, check out the CONTACT tab.

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