HOW TO MANAGE STRESS AND KEEP YOUR RELATIONSHIP HEALTHY DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON

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With Thanksgiving just leaving us in its' calorie-laden wake, the holidays are officially upon us and, along with it, potential feelings of stress and emotional overwhelm.  The holidays can be a minefield of relationship stressors and it can be a trying time for even the healthiest of relationships: Family gatherings may bring up feelings of anger, frustration, anxiety or disappointment when family doesn't behave the way we hope they will.  We may place an expectation on ourselves to buy the best gifts for friends and family putting a potential strain on your finances.  The holidays are thought to be a joyful time with all your friends and family but what if you are spending it as a couple alone?  

With all that the holidays can bring, there are ways to manage the stress and keep your relationship intact and on-course.  

1.)  COMMUNICATION

This can happen in many ways, but one of them is to discuss your holiday plans.  How do you want to spend your time?  Do you want to visit family?  If so, for how long?  Do you stay with your family or stay in a hotel?  Deciding together what you would like the holidays to look like is a great way to avoid resentment and potential conflict.  

If you are planning on spending time with family, build into your holiday itinerary time for just the two of you.  If you are traveling to a location, why not spend an extra day for exploring as a couple or arrange for a date night to give you a break from all that family time.  

Another thing you can provide each other is a de-stressing conversation.  Our family can push our buttons like no one else can so having a safe place to unload can be incredibly healing.  This is not a time for judgement or providing advice but you can provide validation, empathy and offer support to your partner. 

2.)  DEVELOP YOUR OWN HOLIDAY TRADITIONS AND RITUALS

As a couple, we come from two separate families with their own unique traditions and rituals. We can, of course, share with our partner the traditions you love and hold dearly but we can also create new traditions as well.  

Creating these traditions bonds the two of you together, creates a sense of connection and can be a fun and creative process you both can enjoy.  Perhaps it is watching your favorite movie on New Years Day or sharing your favorite holiday treat on a cold night.  Creating these traditions can also give a sense of freedom to create the holiday season however you wish and not just based on your families' expectations.

3.) LOOK AT YOUR EXPECTATIONS

Speaking of expectations, one of the biggest factors of holiday stress are the expectations we place upon ourselves, and others, to make it the "most wonderful time of the year."  It's important that we take a look at our expectations, understand that things won't always go the way we would like them to and express to our partner our hopes and wishes for the holiday season.  

For example, sometimes it's helpful to discuss in advance the gift-giving plan and agree to a specific budget. If it seems like something your can identify, tell your partner what you'd like to give them and link it to a personal reason why you'd like to get them this gift. Perhaps it reminds you of them or you felt they really needed it to make their life a little easier, sometimes it's not the dollar amount but the feeling behind it that makes gifts meaningful and special.  

Finally, it's okay to say "no" to a holiday party or two.  If you find yourself completely overwhelmed with all of your holiday plans, don't expect yourself to get to them all.  It's important to have downtime to take care of yourself and not put too many demands on your time and energy.  Sometimes it's best if you take a night to stay in, have a quiet night at home and recharge.  The less stress you have, the better you feel and the better your partner feels.  

Take a few of these steps and you are on your way to making the holidays easier and might save your relationship from some troublesome conflicts.  Wishing you all a safe and satisfying holiday season!

Warmly,

Renee