By Natalie Chandler, MA, LMHC, LCAC
Unfortunately, for so many people, just hearing the words “Christmas” or “Holidays” produces stress and anxiety. It is definitely the busiest time of year, filled with things that can create anxiety and stress. There is so much to focus on.
For a moment, let’s focus on relationships. When January rolls around do you wake up and see the man next to you (your husband) and say, “Who are you and where did you come from?” If so, you might be neglecting your relationship during the Holidays. It’s easy to do with so many obligations, commitments, and fun things to do.
Here are a few helpful tips/reminders of how to keep up your relationship in the midst of the potential chaos:
1. Keep limits on your activities. It’s easy to feel like we have to do EVERYTHING! There are so many fun things that we want to do and many events that we are obligated to attend. However, it’s important when filling the calendar to decide as a couple or family how you want to chose to spend your time. I would encourage you to put it into 3 categories:
- Obligations/Commitments/ Important Family Events- For example, seeing family you visit one time a year, your son’s preschool program etc.
- Things we WANT to do- examples are seeing the Christmas lights at your favorite destination, going to see Santa, sponsoring a family in need, attending a Christmas Eve Mass. These are the things you enjoy.
- Events you feel you SHOULD do, but aren’t too thrilled about: examples going to the company Christmas party that you don’t have to attend, going to the neighborhood party that bores you every year, knitting socks for the people at work who don’t even wear socks! You get the point!
Then start weeding out things you don’t want to spend your time on. Insert the events you plan to attend on a family calendar for everyone to see.
2. Talk about Finance It’s easy to get carried away buying gifts during the Holidays. In January, couples often fight over how much money was spent. Sit down and set a budget for how much you can spend. Talk about gift giving as well as charitable contributions. Try to stick to the budget or talk about anything you wish to change once the budget is set. You will prevent fights in January.
3. In addition to how you are going to spend your time, decide how you will spend the actual days (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Eve. Don’t assume because you did such and such last year that this will be the case again this year. Discuss who you want to (or don’t want to) have your days spent. Come up with compromises. For example, if you spent Christmas last year with his side, you could spend Christmas this year with yours or vice versa. Don’t spread yourself too thin. You still want to enjoy the day. I know this is difficult with children because everyone wants to see them. If necessary, explain to relatives the importance of your children enjoying the Holidays and thowthis can be difficult to do with a lot of chaos. One decision my husband and I made when we started having children was to be at our home on Christmas Day. We did not want our kids to spend the day in a car traveling. It is hard because his family is out of state. That means they can’t see them on the actual day. But we feel it was important for our family to have a relaxed day and enjoy the true meaning of it. We love this tradition!
4. Don’t forget to spend time together! It may be difficult to actually have a date night or to get to a movie together. You may have to be creative and schedule an “at home date”. This is where you decide tn Friday night, after the kiddos are asleep, you are going to turn off the phones, computers, and TV if you choose and the two of you are going to do something fun together. Play cards, listen to music, eat together in the quiet, make cookies together. The point is to do something ,just the two of you, without distractions. This is actually great year-round. But especially during this month when time, finances, and babysitters are limited.
Hopefully this will help you keep unneeded stress away from your relationship this year. Remember, the Holidays are meant to pull families together, not pull us apart. Don’t forget your relationship with yourself, too! I think it’s time for a nice cup of tea, a warm blanket, a book, and a fireplace- with yourself!