Tackling the Holidays as a Couple
There is no doubt that the holiday season can add some extra stress on all families, but this is especially true for couples who may not be in a great place to begin with. Stressors around the holidays can add more to the plate of an already overwhelmed couple. These include, but are not limited to:
The mental load of preparing for the holidays: hosting holidays, planning for and buying gifts, logistics of kids having time off and perhaps not having time off from work
Extended family visits (need I say more?!). Now, I recognize this can be a source of comfort and joy to some, but it can also be a source of stress to others. Many times there is outward or underlying resentment that we may feel towards extended family members and the holidays may be a time that brings these resentments to light
Money worries…when money is tight, there may be practical worries around the holidays regarding gift giving, the added cost of hosting holidays, the cost of finding child care around school breaks, etc.
So, how do we tackle the holidays as a couple or a family even if one of the stressors above may apply to us? Here are a few tips:
Find joy in little things
Think back to what made the holidays magical for you as a child and try recreating that. Was it special to bake cookies together as a family? Was cutting down a fresh tree a joyous experience? Was watching a special movie together and drinking hot chocolate something that made you feel good? What small things can bring you joy?
Keep and hold boundaries
Often around holidays, we let our boundaries slide a bit, especially when it comes to family. Make sure to keep to your boundaries, even when it may be hard. If you let your boundaries go around certain behaviors others might exhibit, it may cause you to become stressed out or anxious. Also remember, it’s OK to say no. You can’t attend everything and be everywhere at once (especially during nap times!!). It’s OK to prioritize your own family, even if it means saying no to others.
Think about how you want to model the holidays for YOUR family
If you have your own kids, think about what you want your own traditions to be. Your focus should be on creating these memories with your own family; not necessarily feeling the pressure to recreate the memories others expect you to carry on.
Practice self-care: sunlight, fresh air, exercise, walks
Make sure to take time to yourself at this time of year! A walk outside in the cold air can actually help reset your nervous system and help you to have some time to yourself.
Avoid drinking excessively
Sometimes, when we are stressed out a glass of wine can definitely help! However, avoid excessive drinking, especially if you are around family members who may stress you out. You don’t want to say or do something you may regret later.
If money is tight this holiday season, plan your spending wisely. Make sure you are budgeting for gifts and food and sticking to those budgets. If you can’t spend as much on someone this year as they typically spend on you (or spend on your kids), have that honest conversation with them ahead of time.
Be realistic while trying to avoid negativity
Try to remain positive and avoid negative thinking or the “what ifs.” Yes, you may need to remain realistic that the holidays usually go a certain way or you may get a typical nasty comment from a family member, but going into the event with a negative attitude is only going to make it worse for you.
Be a team!
The holidays and family events that may stress you out are a time when you really need to come together as a team. Make sure you are encouraging each other to have good self-care and reading your partner’s signals correctly so you can sense if they are stressed out or getting overwhelmed. Be a team in planning some fun, carefree and joyous events around this time of the year so that the burden doesn’t all fall on one person. Ask your partner for the specific help that you need, rather than letting resentment grow between you.
Set goals for the new year
This is a perfect time of year to set goals for yourself as individuals and as a couple. If you want to be in a better place by the holidays next year, start working on that now! The New Year is a great time to work on goal setting for the year ahead.
Ask for help if you need it
A lot of people start therapy shortly after the holidays for a reason! Sometimes this season pushes us into realizing that we need a little extra help dealing with stress, processing emotions related to family dynamics, or setting and accomplishing personal goals in the new year. If you need a hand in any of this, reach out to a mental health professional. Quiet Light Counseling is accepting new clients for the new year for in-person therapy in Wilton and online therapy for residents of CT!