Picture of Joy Wagner, LMFT-IT

Joy Wagner, LMFT-IT

Relationships during the Holidays

Relationships during the holiday can be both very special and close as well as very stressful, disconnecting. There are so many traditions and memories that at times you can feel overwhelmed. How can you develop the ability to deal with the stress and busyness as well as enjoy the special traditions and time spent with loved ones? Here are some ideas:

#1 Practice self-care. I know I talk about self-care a lot, but this is a time when people can get so stressed and even burned out. Self-care looks different for each person. For one person, it might be taking a hot bath and for another it might be exercising for 30 minutes. Self-care should feel like it releases some tension and is rejuvenating. You might feel like you have nurtured yourself. It can be something that you do for 10 minutes (breathing or meditating) or just a day of not doing extra stuff for people (saying “no”). Depending on your personality, you might want to try to avoid things that take a lot of time or money because then you are less likely to do it and if you do it, you might have guilt for being too indulgent. No matter how you do self-care, it is a benefit to your relationship with yourself and therefore a benefit to your relationship to others. You have more to give when you take care of yourself first.

#2 Pay attention to your stress levels. There are so many things about the holidays that can create extra stress. If you are an introvert or an anxious person, then having all the gatherings can really elevate your stress. Being around family members that you have unresolved issues with can be stressful. Navigating the expectations of the holidays including feeling like you have a responsibility to make it special for other people or that other people expect certain things of you can also add pounds of stress. If you notice you are tight in your jaw, shoulders, forehead, etc., it might be time to do some reflection and deep breathing. Reflect on what is the source of your stress. Maybe saying no to some of the lower priority events is a good idea. Maybe you need to examine what you are expecting of yourself or what you think others are expecting. Is there a way to let go of those expectations or shift them into something more realistic? Ask close friends or loved ones what they think and maybe they can offer some insights. Refer to suggestion #1 (self-care) to deal with the stress. If you have a loved one who is stressed and overwhelmed see if you can offer some support.

#3 In with the new and out with the old. Traditions are a wonderful part of the holidays and every family does it a little different. Make sure the traditions are serving the purpose of bringing the family together rather than causing undue stress and irritation. Maybe when you were a kid, those big family dinners where Grandma or Mom cooked some amazing food was the tradition. Now, it falls on you and it is a huge stress. It is okay to change the tradition to one where everyone brings something, or everyone participates in some way. Talk to your family and see if there are ways to tweak the traditions so they fit your lives better. Sometimes the weight of the holidays falls too much on one person. Make sure that everyone gets to participate in making the holidays special.

#4 Appreciation. With all the things to do, it can be very easy to miss the opportunity of appreciating the people and enjoying the wonder of the holidays. Try to be more aware of things you are grateful for. Appreciate the people around you and the little things they do, especially the commonplace things they do. The true wonder of the holidays is the love and kindness that flows from those around you. There is a beauty that goes beyond decorations. Watch for it and enjoy it.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season in whatever way you celebrate. Take care of yourselves and each other. Slow down, smell the evergreen, and taste a snowflake. Hug each other, be generous and kind.

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