The holidays stir up a wide range of emotions. We experience some of the most joyous, magical, and exciting feelings at this time of year. However, we also have to deal with stress, sadness, loneliness, and overwhelm. The negative feelings, plus those emotional extremes, can impact relationships. However, holiday emotions don’t have to cause problems in your partnership. You can identify the source of the conflicts and transform them this holiday season.
Common Sources of Holiday Stress
There are many stressors during the holiday season. Identifying yours can help you better understand what triggers you. In turn, this can help you work through those challenges. Common sources of holiday stress include:
- Financial strain; travel, gifts, and holiday party expenses all add up
- Seasonal mood; the weather and the shorter hours of daylight impact us
- Expectations; society tells us this is a happy time of year, which can magnify our negative feelings
- Loneliness; a hectic holiday schedule can make you feel disconnected from your partner
- Past holidays; memories from childhood or past relationships can impinge on the present
Identify which stressors tend to trigger you most. This lets you know the areas to give attention to. For example, if you’re stressed about finances, committing in advance to a low-cost holiday can help reduce the strain.
How Holiday Stress Manifests
Holiday emotions really run the gamut in terms of how they manifest in each individual. Some people experience heightened levels of anxiety. Others fall into seasonal depression. Anger, frustration, irritation, and overwhelm are just a few of the other common challenging emotions of the season.
No matter how it manifests, the strain can impact your relationship. If you fall into depression, your partner might not know how to connect with you. This, in turn, exacerbates loneliness. On the other hand, your emotions might manifest as irritation, which you take out on your partner by snapping at them. This, too, creates a disconnect. The more disconnected you feel, the worse the emotions can impact you both.
How to Transform Holiday Conflict: Self-Care
Once you can identify what triggers you and how it manifests, you’re in a great position to make changes. Start with self-care. The more grounded you can keep yourself during the holidays, the less conflict will arise in the first place. Plus, of course, the better you will feel overall.
There are three levels of self-care:
- Necessary Basics: Take care of your physical and mental health. Eat well, get enough sleep, and practice daily hygiene and wellness tasks.
- Core Care: Attend to your social, spiritual, emotional, and psychological needs. Examples including spending time with people who nourish you, practicing meditation or prayer, journaling or keeping gratitude lists, and keeping your therapy appointments.
- Extras and Indulgences: Enjoy the things that give you pleasure. Go to the spa, spend a day in bed reading a novel, or take a long hike on a favorite trail.
When you take care of yourself at all three levels, you reduce the likelihood of holiday emotions overwhelming you. Therefore, you reduce conflict in your relationship.
How to Transform Holiday Conflict Together
Of course, in addition to self-care, it’s important that you and your partner work together to transform holiday conflict. Here are some key tips to keep in mind:
- Practice generosity, gratitude, and grace with your partner. Give them the benefit of the doubt during this stressful time of year.
- Make time for the two of you to just enjoy each other. Go on dates.
- Discuss what the holidays mean to each of you. If you better understand why lavish gifts are important to your partner, then you might be able to relax your stress around spending money for the holidays.
- Start or maintain seasonal traditions. Routines and traditions can increase feelings of closeness with your partner.
- Let the little things go. When you’re upset, ask yourself if some basic self-care would resolve the issue. Choose your battles.
- Connect in small ways. Take time each day to really listen to your partner. Give hugs, kisses, and cuddles.
- Let your partner know exactly what you need. What would make you feel better? Ask for it.
- Use “I statements” to express your feelings without blaming your partner.
It is definitely hard to manage holiday emotions. However, when you take care of yourself, you set the stage for a positive holiday experience. Moreover, when you make a strong effort to connect with your partner, you may discover that you can transform holiday conflict into seasonal connection.
What are some of your sources of holiday stress, and what are some of your solutions? I’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below or contact me through my contact form! If you’d like more information about the therapy I offer, please visit my Anxiety Therapy or Individual Therapy pages.