The holiday season is upon us, with its many joys and many stresses. As you and your loved ones gear up for holiday meals, visiting family and last minute shopping, here are four quick tips to help you weather the storm.
Develop a Team Mindset
One of the major sources of stress during the holiday season is dealing with all of those extended bits of family we get to pretend don’t exist for most of the year. Whether that’s your loud-mouthed uncle (with his unpleasant political views) or your well-meaning but aggravating mother-in-law, these enforced interactions can be hard to take.
Couples often find themselves at odds with their partner over the behavior of family members, with one feeling disrespected and the other caught in the middle.
Remember, you and your partner are a team (and the team comes first). Think of yourselves as a team, and act together as a team (with the team’s best interest in mind). This might require setting firm boundaries with family members so that your partner is treated with respect. Or, it might take offering sympathy and compassion to your partner as they deal with less pleasant parts of their family. The important idea is to support each other, offer understanding when things are difficult, and share in the enjoyment.
Have a conversation with your partner today about what they need (and what you need) to feel loved and supported through this time. Make a plan together to meet those needs. Stick to your plan.
Build Your Own Rituals
Research shows that family rituals play an important role in increasing relationship satisfaction and success. Rituals also support the cognitive and emotional development of children by creating a predictable structure, offering guides to behavior, and by setting an emotional climate.
One of the many benefits of adulthood is the ability to determine what these rituals will be. For example, what does Christmas look like in your family? What do you do that morning, what about Christmas Eve? Are there particular foods, particular ways that presents are opened? Is it family centered, spiritually centered, or all about the dinner?
Make what you do intentional. Decide with your partner and your kids what is important. Often, two people coming together from different families will have different ideas about what this should look like. Listen with respect, and find a way to balance everyone’s desires.
Hold It All Lightly
Buddhists say that the definition of suffering is the difference between what we have and what we wish we had. Stress might be defined as an unworkable attempt by your brain to reconcile the two.
When you get down to it, there is a lot about the holidays that are completely out of our control. Travel plans can go awry. Family members can say the wrong thing, drink too much, or just be themselves. When you find your brain grabbing onto what should have been, pause for a moment. Take a deep breath. Acknowledge the thought your brain is having, and the emotion you are experiencing, but know also that this moment, like all moments, will pass.
Ask For Help
For some, the holidays are exciting and enjoyable. For others, stressful but tolerable. For many, they can be very challenging. Feelings of sadness, anxiety, overwhelm or depression are not only normal, they are common. If these experiences are part of your holiday tradition, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Or rather, be willing to ask for help–even if doing so is difficult. Speaking with a counselor can help you gain a new perspective on your experience and to develop the practices and behaviors that will help you grow and thrive.