7 WAYS TO DIAL BACK HOLIDAY STRESS By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott
“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’” – Luke 2:13 (NIV)
Jesus came to earth to bring peace and save humanity. Christmas was established to celebrate his birth, and to give us time to focus on the greatest gift ever given. But somewhere along the way, the holiday season shifted from a time of thankfulness and peaceful reflection to a time of overwhelm, stress, and discord.
Unfortunately, the holidays have become a season that puts a tremendous strain on our relationships with one another–namely, on our marriages.
Today we’re sharing 7 ways you can take your holidays back from this out-of-control cycle.
DON’T TRY TO KEEP EVERYONE HAPPY
One of the most common complaints that arises from married couples during the holidays is that they have multiple demands placed on them by family members–often on both sides of the family–and they’re completely overloaded with meals to cook, events to host, and traditions to uphold. This creates an atmosphere of stress that can easily cause you or your spouse to resent the people making the demands.
The only way to get a handle on these situations is to stop trying to be everything to everyone during the holidays.
We’re not saying to refuse any involvement with family traditions or activities. But if you’ve got more on your plate than you can handle every year, it would be wise to limit what you say yes to. It isn’t easy to say no, but lightening your load will allow the two of you to more fully enjoy your time with family and friends.
TAKE IT EASY
This second tip goes hand-in-hand with the first: if you and your spouse simply have too many places to be during the holidays, you might want to consider cutting back on the number of gatherings you attend every year.
Evaluate your holiday schedule and see if there’s anything you can trim. Maybe you can agree to attend certain events only every other year, alternating destinations from year to year (especially if you have to travel extensively to gather with family). If one side of your family holds to multiple yearly traditions, you might consider attending only one gathering with them.
Transitioning into new patterns may be difficult at first, but you and your spouse will reap the benefits of being able to focus more fully on one another during (and on your children, if you have them).
CREATE NEW TRADITIONS
Dialing back your holiday stress may include creating some new traditions for the family you two have created together. Spend some time sharing childhood or family traditions and memories that you loved, and re-create them (or create something entirely new out of a combination of your memories).
You could even think outside the box and get creative! Share ideas of possible traditions that appeal to you, and see where you land. You might decide to adopt a unique Christmas tradition from another country, or you might do something completely non-traditional, just because.
Have fun with it! There are truly no rules when it comes to creating a wonderful set of traditions for yourselves.
RELAX AND PLAY!
The wonder of Christmas is best experienced through the eyes of a child. If you have wonderful childhood holiday memories, spend some time reconnecting with the way Christmas felt back then. Allow yourself to see Christmas as you did when you were little.
Of course, we know that not everyone has beautiful childhood memories of the holiday season. If this is your story, observe the kids in your life (whether they’re your own, your relatives’, or your friends’) and absorb their wonder. If your spouse had a happier childhood in comparison with your own, ask him or her to share some happy memories. Have fun with one another and recreate them together.
STAY IN THE MOMENT
During the holidays, it’s easy to go on autopilot as you move from one task or destination to the next. You might find it difficult to truly enjoy where you are at any one moment, as you stress about everything on your to-do list.
Slow down and focus on who you’re with. If you and your spouse are alone together, take some time to intentionally focus on one another. If you have kids, take a little extra time to enjoy them. If you’re visiting with family or friends, try to quiet your mind and be present.
The time you spend with family and friends during the holidays is a gift. Treat it as such by staying mindful and truly being where you are.
If you’re a Christian, you’re probably familiar with the phrase, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 21:35 NIV). During the holidays, it’s very easy to become consumed with the things you want, and the things you may or may not receive. Selfishly focusing on your own material desires is a surefire way to create stress for yourself, as well as those around you (especially your spouse!).
Instead, focus on giving. Give to your spouse. Give to your children. Give to family, friends, or a worthy cause in your community. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be material. The gifts of time and attention are far more valuable.
FOCUS ON JESUS
Keeping your focus on Christ is the ultimate way to refocus your holiday experience. The two of you can study the story of Jesus’ birth together as a special devotional, or you can choose to follow an Advent calendar as a family. Whatever you choose to do, training your eyes on the true “reason for the season” will help you and your spouse to create your holiday experience within the very best context.
Most of all, just have fun together. Make the holidays a time of joy and fun for the two of you–a time to grow more deeply in love with one another and create beautiful, lasting memories.