“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”
-Sydney J. Harris
Feel any tension this time of year? How do you and your partner handle holiday stress? Does it bring you closer or drive you apart?
You may have more control than you think; but only if you realize that you can take charge. Here are some strategies that will help you get started:
1) Observe your self-talk – Pay attention to the thoughts running through your mind; are they positive or negative? Our perception is the one thing we can always change. When you are feeling stressed, ask yourself, “How can I look at this situation another way? How much will this stressor bother me in a day, a month, a year?” Respond to your negative self-talk and challenge it to be more positive. For example, when you and your partner are trying to make challenging decisions, think of it as an opportunity to learn patience and compromise.
2) Say no to stress – What expectations do your family and your partner’s family have for you? Sometimes the old traditions don’t work now that you have your own family. Take stock of the expectations surrounding you. Together with your partner set boundaries and make decisions so you and your family can enjoy the holidays and not dash around pleasing everyone else.
3) Think outside the box – Often we get stuck in our own way of solving problems and don’t envision alternative solutions. Brainstorm other options with your partner; don’t evaluate them till you have finished listing all ideas. For example, you need to cut costs financially in this difficult economy. Why not make gifts for each other this year? Or give each other coupons for an act of service, like making dinner or giving a massage. Be creative.
4) Anticipate and plan for triggers – You can predict some of the issues that are going to come up with family. Aunt Marge is going to tell you you’ve gained weight; your mother-in-law is going to make you feel guilty for not visiting more often. Instead of being taken off guard by these situations, proactively predict what will happen ahead of time and create responses you can use. For Aunt Marge you might say, “That hurts my feelings.” And for your mother-in-law you might say, “I wish we could visit more.”
5) Start new traditions – New traditions have to start some year so why not now? Figure out what would make the holiday season less stressful and implement your plan. Maybe it’s too hectic to visit two or three homes on Christmas. Decide that you will spend Christmas Eve with one part of the family and Christmas Day with another or alternate years.
By taking charge of the factors you have control over, you will empower yourself to have a more enjoyable holiday celebration. You can relate, relax, and relish the holidays; it’s up to you.
We wish you a happy and healthy holiday season!
Here’s to your relationship,
Lori and Bob Hollander
© Copyright 2011 by By Lori Hollander, LCSW-C, BCD. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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