Holiday Stress

With Thanksgiving just six days away, I’m starting to hear from some of my clients that the stresses are building. Sadly, what should be a great time of year can end up bringing a lot of misery and conflict instead of comfort and joy. This isn’t going to solve all holiday problems, but let me offer a couple of thoughts, in no particular order.

First, some people dread the holidays because they feel holiday time intensifies the loneliness they feel from never having married, a divorce, the loss of a loved one, etc. In such cases, the best solution I’ve seen is to re-invent the holidays. For instance, a divorced friend told me that every other year, when her children are with her ex-husband, since she has no other extended family available to celebrate with, she volunteers for organizations that serve holiday dinners for the homeless. She has spent several holidays doing just that and has some wonderful and touching stories to tell of those experiences. This is just one idea, but if you are grieving because the holidays can’t be what you would like them to be, get creative and find a way to make them meaningful to you in a non-traditional way.

Second, don’t fight with your spouse about in-law visiting. There are so many variations on this kind of conflict that there is no way to provide a simple “cure.” But if both partners are at least trying to have a make-it-work attitude about this, things work better. Be willing to consider your partner’s feelings. Don’t let the feelings of parents and other extended family be more important. Consider, also, that it can sometimes be best just to celebrate as a unit family group (meaning you don’t go to either set of in-laws). That doesn’t mean you can’t visit extended family around holiday time, but maybe the actual holiday can be spent just with the unit family to lighten up the schedule and strengthen those most-important bonds. If you really can’t create a workable plan together and every attempt leads to a fight, consider finding someone you both trust (a bishop, close friend, neutral family member, or counselor) and let them moderate the discussion. Limit the time to 20 minutes and each partner needs to come with three options they think are fair to both spouses. Might seem ridiculous, but it can work.

Third, (also fourth, fifth, and sixth), SIMPLIFY. I don’t know why this seems so hard for so many to do, but too often we are our own worst enemies in the plans we make and the expectations we have.

For some other useful ideas, check out this MAYO CLINIC ARTICLE on managing holiday stress. Anyone out there have great ideas for de-stressing the holidays? How about ideas for re-inventing the holidays?

©2018 Lili Anderson, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.