Unfortunately, rather than being a time of joy, the holiday season for some can cause excess worrying, evoke additional loneliness, raise stress levels, exacerbate negative behavior patterns, and bring up unique challenges. As the year ends, there can be feelings of regret for past decisions, memories of old hurts, or feelings of being overwhelmed. It is important to remember to intentionally manage emotional challenges that come up.
While the positive aspects of the holiday season are many, especially the opportunity to connect and engage with friends and family, it is, as we know, not always a perfect story. Pressures can mount with any combination of stresses such as extra financial burden, having to face or handle complex relationships, or scheduling challenges all particular to the holiday season.
Sometimes external pressures create undue stress on intimate relationships and it becomes difficult to prevent irritation, bickering, disagreements, or longer standing resentment from flaring up.
Tips to lower stress and keep it positive through the holidays:
Don’t do it alone:
Its time for the team approach. Resist shutting down and instead do the opposite. Ask for help, be open to suggestions, and always remember to appreciate your partners efforts and presence in your life. Make it evident to your partner that you are there to support them as well. Nurture and foster your closeness – afterall a burden shared does feel lighter!
Don’t lose sight of your connection:
Holidays are a busy time for many. During such times, it is especially important to remind your partner how special they are. Amidst social engagements, work parties, times with family and friends, be sure to remember to spend some alone time with your partner letting them know they matter oh-so-much! Special treats such as a back-rub, or picking up dinner can go a long way specially during busy times.
At times of stress it can be incredibly helpful to find safety and comfort with a partner. Offer your partner understanding, comfort and a safe haven in your company. Care about their concerns and let them know in small and big ways that they mean the world to you!
Be open and communicative about your likes, dislikes, preferences, priorities etc. and be prepared to hear your partner’s perspective as well. Share your thoughts, feelings and challenges with your partner and tune in to listen to theirs. Make plans on how to tackle holiday challenges by sharing the work, and dividing the chores. Be prepared to be inclusive with traditions and priorities that may be important to either of you.
Deal with conflict:
Hope for the best, plan for some hiccups! Remind yourself and each other that kindness and compassion can make most things better. If conflict shows up work through it with kindness and compassion in mind. If upcoming events are especially anxiety provoking, explain your concerns and don’t hesitate to ask your partner for extra support or help working through a situation. Be readily available to offer your partner your support should they need it.
Festive seasons, holidays, high stress times, jointly experienced losses, extreme joys, or sorrows, etc. are such that they can either bring a couple closer or create extreme rifts. Holidays especially can serve to remind one of loved ones who have passed and / or family that is difficult to deal with. Whatever may be the case, the high stress along with other holiday accoutrements such as drinking, partying, and family politics exacerbate chances of relationship distress. Studies show that around such times chances of one night stands, flings, and affairs increase as well. Heightened emotions and nostalgic feelings during the holiday season may increase vulnerability and lead one to seek comfort outside the primary relationship.
Self-care must be made a priority especially in the holiday season. Practicing self-care provides a healthy model for others in the family and gives your partner the unspoken permission to commit to their own self-care as well. Self-care promotes healthy relationships because it brings a healthy you to your relationship.
Self-care tips for a healthy YOU:
- Ensure you get daily time for yourself, even if just ten minutes to check in
- Treat yourself with kindness and compassion… as you would a best friend!
- Make healthy and nutritious meal choices
- Eat and sleep on time
- Be mindful of your alcohol and caffeine intake
- Prepare beforehand for difficult family interactions if you expect these
- Use your support system and reach out to you partner to share your feelings
- Be aware of your physical and emotional limits and respect them
- Do not take on financial stress beyond your capacity
- Remind yourself it is okay to say no to things you don’t want to do
- Create and follow traditions that you like
If it gets overwhelming, seek professional help.