Coping with Relational Stress as the Holidays Approach

            Y’all we are 9 weeks away from Christmas!  When I heard this announcement on the radio earlier this week, my immediate thought was, “how is this even possible?”  My next thought went directly to how much stress often comes with the holiday season.  It can be easy to feed off stress, chaos, and frustration in all seasons of life, but somehow the holiday season often intensifies this experience for couples.  I wanted to share some thoughts on how to be intentional with your partner in order to help reduce the stress that often comes with the fast approaching holiday season.  

-       Daily/Weekly Check-ins: Check in with your partner on where each of your stress levels are at.  Ask each other on a scale of 1 – 10.  Talk about what it would look like for your answer to be a couple of points less?  Is there something that you can do to help decrease your partner’s stress level?  Is there something you can ask your partner to do that would help decrease your own stress level?

-       Make a shared list: The frustration and stress of the holiday season can be greatly decreased by sharing and tackling holiday tasks together.  Make a hand-written list or electronically create and share the list with one another.  This list might include things like gift ideas, holiday meals planning, decorations, etc.  Collectively discuss what you can each tackle, and then remove that item or check it off the list.  Helpful hint: the Iphone’s Note App allows you to add contacts to your individual notes; then each of you can see changes in real time, similarly to how Google Docs works. 

-       Calendar important holiday events: The same idea above applies to the holiday calendar of events.  Share your electronic calendars with one another, if possible, or write this information on a physical calendar and keep it in a place that is easily accessible to both of you!

-       Decide where to spend the holidays ahead of time!  For many couples, there is always a ton of questions around where and how do we spend the holidays?  Do we go to see your family, do we go to see my family, or do we just stay home for the holidays?  Prepare ahead of time!  Plan to have this discussion before the holiday stress sets in!  Try to reduce the frustration of this conversation by actively listening to your partner and repeating back to them what you heard them say.  If the two of you have completely opposite views on how to spend the holidays, can you come up with a system that satisfies both of you?  Maybe this looks like agreeing to spend Thanksgiving one place and Christmas at another, and then switching it up the following year.

-       Carve out time for self-care in your schedules!  Support one another by verbally reminding your partner to take time for self-care in a supportive, loving manner.  If necessary put this time on the calendar in advance.

-       Schedule some one-on-one time!  Yes, even during the chaos of the holiday season, it is extremely important to remember that your relationship is a priority.  Before the chaos begins, be sure to schedule time for yourselves.  Talk about what the two of you would like to do on those days or evenings ahead of time.  Even if they are low-key dates, both of you will likely appreciate the time spent together. 

If you find that you and your partner are struggling to have any of the conversations above, reach out to me at katiemitchell@heightsfamilycounseling.com.  I would love to help the two of you connect before the chaos of the holidays ensues.