The extra demands combined with the typical stress around the holidays can cause most of us to fall into the trap rigid thinking and the belief that all needs to be absolutely idyllic in order to be happy. If you struggle with anxiety, this season can be an especially difficult time. Perfectionism is something cognitive behavioral therapists see often; here are some good CBT-based tips on how to help yourself during the rest of 2017
Do Not Strive For Perfect
Perfectionism is a self-imposed unrealistic expectation and the subsequent stringent judgments on you, others, or a situation. Since you are with yourself every day, you see every mistake you make, so we tend to have quite a long checklist of our real and perceived mishaps. When you listen to these thoughts and take them seriously, you become hypercritical of ourselves and begin to put more weight on the negative aspects of oneself. This inevitably leads to depression, low-self esteem, and a sense of frustration, which isn’t useful to you or your loved ones.
When you find yourself revisiting that list of mistakes, it’s time to combat them by using this popular CBT technique termed a ‘positive data log’. By writing down events that were ‘good enough’, or events that were just fine in spite of being imperfect you begin to be more flexible, and your all or nothing mindset can be reduced.
With so many social media apps, unrealistic advertising and media, it’s impossible to not compare your life with just a small, idealized sample of other’s. If you are a perfectionist, it’s not always easy to remember to take a step back and assess reality. When we engage in comparison, we typically measure ourselves next to someone we already think is ‘better’ in some way or another. However, all that time comparing can have real consequences. A recent study among Facebook and Twitter users in the UK showed 62% feel inadequate and 60% feel jealous when using social media. The same study found half of participants from 18-34 felt ugly due to their time online.
Are co-workers, ex’s, or family on social media fueling your feelings of inadequacy and stress? If you want to kick perfectionism to the curb, you want to turn off your phone, un-follow your “competition”, and kindly remind yourself that social media is not a representation of reality, even if just over the holidays.
Temper Family Expectations
It likely doesn’t need to be said that family can cause a lot of distress around the holidays, and even more so when you expect them to be ideal. There is already enough pressure around this time of the year without adding perfectionism to the mix. Remember, you can’t control the actions of your family, but you can control your own. Part of walking the walk is that you can identify and reduce acting and thinking in ways that are not productive.
It is similar to entering your debit card pin at a checkout. You are in a hurry, and for some reason your pin won’t work. However, instead of admitting defeat and using another card, you continue to enter the same pin. Your blood pressure is rising, as is that of the cashier and the people behind you in line. All of this stress and anxiety could have been avoided if you simply stopped repeating the same unproductive habits and expectations.
Beat Perfectionism by Shifting Perspectives- An Experiment in CBT
On days when everything goes wrong, take a minute to consider how much worse things could be to shift your negative perspective. The following are three other tricks to engage your positive lens.
1.Incorporate a daily gratitude practice. According to CBT research, gratitude improves mental health, emotional health, sleep, and self-esteem. Each morning, night, or both write down 5 things you are grateful for, and that is all.
2. Acknowledge Your Power. Cognitive behavioral therapists emphasize that it’s vital to recognize that we all have control to choose our perspectives. In fact, we choose which thoughts to pay attention to already, so reorienting yourself to the positive can add more value and warmth to the way you experience this season.
3.Take a Breather. Meditation is helpful not only in shifting perspectives but reducing perfectionism and anxiety. You don’t have to sit and hum for an hour to meditate. Check out this blog to find useful techniques: Can’t Meditate? Think Again: 10 of the Best CBT Hacks to Trick Your Brain into Bliss.
In Part 3 of this 4-part series, I’ll be discussing cognitive behavioral approaches to coping with loneliness over the holidays. As always, please let me know how these tips work for you. Other ideas? Please share. Enjoy the rest of your month and have fun trying these tips! What to know more about cognitive behavioral therapy? Click here for an FAQ: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy/CBT in San Diego