Keep Calm and Carry On Through the Holidays

Local author Mark Reinecke, Ph.D., knows a thing or two about the dangers of high expectations and aiming for perfection around the holidays.


Here’s some advice from his book, “Little Ways to Keep Calm and Carry on: Twenty Lessons for Managing Worry, Anxiety, and Fear”:

Let’s call this lesson: How to Host The Perfect Holiday Party … or not.

You want this to be the perfect party … perfectly planned and perfectly executed. That’s the way to be sure that everyone has a wonderful time, right? You’re armed with your “to do” list. You wake up early on a Saturday morning and you are set to go. Tonight is the big event and you have many tasks to complete.

This is your first Christmas in the neighborhood and many of the guests are new friends. This is the first time they have been to your home. The stakes are high … it’s got to be perfect.

You are off to grocery store for some last minute items; you need to pick up the tablecloths from the dry cleaners and the centerpiece from the florist.  The only thing missing from the table setting is 20 napkins.

The napkins need to be a dark plum color, that perfect shade to compliment the soft green tablecloth. You saw it in one of your favorite magazines and nothing less will do. So the search begins. The first store doesn’t have twenty napkins. The second store has the wrong shade of plum, too purple.

Off to the mall you go, surely you can find them there. Nope. You head down the expressway to another table setting shop. They have a nice assortment, but they do not have THE PLUM NAPKINS.

Time is running short. You grab 20 substitute napkins, plain old boring beige. Barely make it to the florist before they close, charge through grocery store and rush home to put together a few last minute appetizers.

You set out the napkins on the table and it just looks wrong. The table is so pedestrian. You are frazzled and your vision for the perfect party is dashed.

There is going to be a lot more “off” to this party than the napkins. After a frustrating napkin hunt you are going to be on edge and your disappointment will spill over into the evening.

This is what happens when we set our expectations too high. It is very common at the holidays, to get caught up in details and to lose sight of one true goal—to have a wonderful party. The color of the napkins is far less important than the mindset of the host.

Be mindful of setting yourself up for failure by demanding perfection. Take a “good enough” approach and spend effort on creating holiday ambiance and cheer. This is something which doesn’t come from a plum colored napkin.

Lower your expectations and your frustrations and disappointment will follow. In the end, no one cares about the color of the napkins. What is far more important is a host that is welcoming and … calm.

Mark Reinecke, Ph.D. is author of  “Little Ways to Keep Calm and Carry on: Twenty Lessons for Managing Worry, Anxiety, and Fear

Also available at The Bookstall at Chestnut Court