Relationship Advice for Facing Stress This Christmas

Synthia Stark

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Christmas can put considerable strains and pressures on the state of your marriage or partnership. With the way 2020 has turned out, our abilities to cope with ongoing stress have been quite challenging.

Whether it was the lockdown restrictions, quarantine, store closures, or even health and financial hardships, we’ve had to become increasingly creative in the ways we can make our relationships work.

For example, you’re likely living together for many hours in the day. Since there’s less chance to go anywhere, you’re left in situations where you are living in the close quarters of your partner, where arguments are much more likely.

When you’re arguing, maybe your default strategy was to leave the house, drive off, and sit somewhere quiet. However, this year has thrown in so many monkey wrenches, that maybe you can’t do any of these things.

Instead, you’re forced to quickly adapt to new strategies, such as letting off steam in another room. Instead of going to the gym, you’ve gone to the basement where you’ve created your own DIY gym with the help of some online videos and books.

It’s not the same as before, but it kind of does the trick. With more time and practice, maybe your new strategies will eventually work pretty well.

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When it comes to relationships, there’s a lot of other things that you can focus on this holiday season. For example, you might have had more time this season to decorate your house or do some casual house cleaning.

Perhaps you’re finding yourself making presents instead of buying things because all the stores are literally closed. Maybe you’re ordering gift cards online. Maybe you are making charitable donations in the name of the person you are planning to send a gift to. 

At the end of the day, it’s the thought that counts. Plus, there are plenty of other things can you focus on when it comes to improving your relationships. These include:

  • Influencing the atmosphere of your home to be comfy and warm
  • Perfecting your cooking technique 
  • Preparing more self-care strategies 
  • Researching more about world events
  • Learning more about your own communication strategies

Basically, if your relationship can handle this year, then the two of you can handle the problems that may arise in the future, especially things get better. 

Plus, we’re almost at the end of the year. We have the holidays for relaxing and can recharge against the stressors of the following year. 

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While it is frustrating to have gone through so much, you’ve been in a relationship across these rocky months and that in itself is a major strength, especially when you’ve been fighting off so many problems and are still here.

Here, I’m going to list some common stressors during the holidays:

  • Pressures surrounding expectations and time constraints
  • Dealing with extra and unwanted expenses
  • Having to deal with family and friends who have different beliefs 
  • Having unfortunate family emergencies 
  • Maintaining one’s weight or being self-conscious about our bodies
  • Making sure your children are behaving well
  • Worrying about the influence of alcohol

While these stressors are maddening during holiday times, we cannot control outside influences, especially when they come to disrupt our lives. Instead, we have to pay lots of extra attention to our surroundings and influence ourselves instead.

That’s right. 

We can’t control how others will behave, but we can control or at least influence how we respond towards tragedy. If you’ve noticed, two or more people will respond in different ways towards messed up circumstances. Perhaps one person did well in spite of the bad stuff, but the other person fell off the rails.

You’re probably wondering how you might be able to control your responses surrounding stress. The formula sounds straight-forward, but it’s not easy to follow. When presented with tragedy, we just have to pad our time with other activities to give ourselves a break.

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In other words, you need to develop a set of healthy coping mechanisms in response to those bad events. In this case, a healthy coping mechanism is some kind of outlet to let off that anger, such as the home-made gym in the basement, knitting, yoga, and many more. 

If you can find the right kind of outlet, then it’s easier to manage the bad stuff.

For example, think of your brain. Your brain is constantly calculating so many things. When you have many stressors, your brain can’t process all the challenges 24 hours a day. Instead, we need occasional breaks like sleep, rest, and shelter. 

On top of that, if you allow yourself to work on something else, like a fun activity, your brain takes a break from that stress. When you walk back into the situation, your brain can approach the problem from another angle. 

Think of this as your “aha” moment. 

Even if you can’t resolve your problem, this new line of thinking will help you examine the situation in such a way that you’re able to ward off some of the bad problems, and can continue doing so until the problem is eventually gone.

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Business leaders do it all the time. If they are presented with a major problem, they work on something else, and then come back to the problem later. When you wrote a test in school, you did the same. When the test question was hard, you skipped the question, worked on something else, and the answer finally appeared in your mind at the very last second.

The same can be applied to stressful situations. If you have a problem, take a breather, focus on something else, and then come back later on to brainstorm a new idea. If you’re really struggling still, you always have the support of family, friends, people online, and so much more.

When it comes to relationships, consider the following:

  • Brainstorm the kinds of things you and your partner both like
  • Talk to your partner about doing the things that you both like
  • Make a list out of the things you like, just in case you forget later on
  • Research as much as you can on whatever your problem is
  • Communicate with your partner clearly instead of making assumptions

The reality is that stress makes it hard to take information at face value. It also makes us jaded and it’s hard to trust anyone. However, you’re in a relationship and true relationships are partnerships, where you both tackle problems together. 

If one person is jaded, perhaps the other person can be the soundboard to bring balance to your cynicism. If you both need a break, listen to your bodies and minds. We have one life to live and we have to make it meaningful. If you want to improve the communication between you two, consider the following:

  • Write out the things you want from one another (written words cannot be misinterpreted) 
  • Send genuine encouragement to your partner for doing something amazing or sweet
  • Leave each other cheeky notes and silly text messages for the other to find

While the holidays are a stressful time, it can be fun as well. When you’re with your partner, make sure that you have many formative memories together, even when the times are tough.

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You’ve already gotten through a lot of drama, and you’re still around, so there’s still hope for the state of your relationship, especially in the years ahead. 

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Writer & Researcher | Therapist-in-Training | Crisis Responder | Writing wholesome stories for the masses.

New York City, NY
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