“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!!” or so the song says…But do you and your spouse find this time to be extremely stressful? Perhaps you feel forced to mingle with difficult family members or maybe you feel a certain obligation to buy the perfect gift. Does this stress cause tension or more arguments with your partner resulting in uncomfortable “silent nights”? Don’t worry my friend, you are not alone. While the holidays can be a joyous time for some, there are many factors that can cause quite intense stress and anxiety within your relationship. But rest assured that there are tips to reduce stress around the holidays.

Set Boundaries

You may feel obligated to meet each family member’s needs while sacrificing your own. It’s time to evaluate what really works for you and what doesn’t. Sometimes saying no to traveling for the holidays or participating in certain holiday traditions are necessary for you and your partner. Don’t feel bad for putting yourself first and saying no when necessary. You owe it to yourselves and your relationship to celebrate (or not) in whatever way that feels authentic to you!

Discuss Expectations for Gifts

While holidays stereotypically indicate the exchange of gifts, discuss the meaning of this tradition with your spouse to reach a common ground. If gifts are your thing, work together to create budgets or establish limits. Between you and your partner you may choose an experience together instead of tangible gifts or purchasing a household gadget. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you and your spouse begin discussing your expectations. Allow yourselves plenty of time to make sure you are on the same page regarding gift giving with each other, and loved ones.

Do What Works for You

Like I mentioned before, while there are several holiday traditions, please know you are always allowed (and encouraged) to do what works for you! You and your partner are the leading stars in your show and you get to call all the shots on what works best for you!

Prioritize your mental health

Holidays tend to bring about heavy emotions and memories. Make sure to check in with each other to ensure that you both are doing well mentally. Offer ample support and kindness towards each other during this stressful time. As an added tool to navigate holiday stress, participating in daily or weekly check ins to have a Stress Reducing conversation can also assist you in staying connected during this time.

Turn Towards Each Other for Support. 

Express needs and desires during this time that help to make you feel most loved and supported by your partner. Discuss fears and sources of anxiety to allow yourself to turn towards each other when you feel tension rising within your body. Allow your partner a chance to understand your worries and help you self-soothe. You are in this together, and we don’t want to let one tough season get in between you and your partner. 

The holidays do not always have to be a stressful time. Pay attention to patterns related to holidays that have historically worked well for you. Never feel guilty for deviating from previous patterns that no longer serve you or your partner.

Happy Stress Free Holidays!

By: Dr. Adaria Warner, PhD, LMFT

Throughout December, we are focusing on how to manage holiday stress. If you or a loved one need professional support, our counselors at Mathews Counseling are available for appointments. Request your appointment today!

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