I was out at my local shopping centre this week when I saw real Christmas trees for sale and I realised just how close we are to Christmas. I know it’s a bit of a cliche, but this year has really flown, especially as I have been completing additional studies. As much as I am enjoying it, I am really looking forward to a study break over the Christmas season.
It won’t be a break from seeing clients for relationship counselling however. In fact Christmas can be a very busy time for me with clients. A lot of people find themselves fighting more with their partner and extended family over Christmas. People seem to hit a crisis point at this time of year and they put a lot of pressure on themselves financially and emotionally.
Christmas has been the breaking point for many relationships and I have had colleagues whose clients have left their marriages or walked out of the family home at this time of year. I established From 2 to 3 to prevent that from happening, so that couples who become parents are supported before they hit breaking point.
So at this time of year, I would like to share my 4 Tips for Staying Calm during the festive season.
1. Manage Your Stress
In the lead-up to Christmas, it’s important to do all the things that help you stay calm and centred, such as exercise, eating nutritious food, drinking plenty of water, limiting alcohol and getting good sleep each night. It can be tempting to overindulge at all the Christmas parties or skip your lunchtime walk to get Christmas shopping done, but your body and mind will thank you for keeping those healthy routines going. Inevitably people’s stress levels will have steadily increase by the end of the year. Without any self-care routines and when we are running on adrenalin, we become more anxious, irritable, tired and emotional. This kind of emotional state tends to increase the likelihood that we will be more negative, critical or argumentative with our partner.
2. Have Realistic Expectations
You may want everything to be perfect, especially if this is your baby’s first Christmas, but resist the temptation to go over the top with party planning and spending. There is nothing that creates more tension and stress in a relationship than credit card debt and differing values around spending. Manage your expectations around other people’s behaviour too. This might be your partner, their family, your family and friends. It would be great to think that at Christmas family grudges and tensions didn’t exist, but they do of course and when you add alcohol and stress to the mix, people don’t always behave the way you want them to. Focus on what you can control – your own attitude and behaviour.
3. Don’t Go to Every Argument You Are Invited To
At this time of year, you may be feeling a bit more sensitive, irritable or upset. Your partner may say or do something that really annoys you and you might be tempted to yell at them, criticise them or be sarcastic. It can then easily spin into a heated argument or the silent treatment. Not very festive is it? Notice whether the issue is worth the argument, there will be certain deal breakers that cut to the very core of our value set and it’s important to acknowledge these and speak up. However in my experience most terrible arguments start over something very minor in the scheme of things. Pick your battles wisely, if it’s not a big deal and it’s more about you being in a grumpy mood, then choose peace. It’s not worth your relationship to always have to be right!
4. Create Traditions Together
When you become parents, a lot of joy can come from creating family rituals and traditions that are meaningful to you both. You are creating a sense of family for your child or children and this doesn’t need to be completely dictated by your families of origin. In addition to the existing family traditions created by both your families, consider creating something new together that is for your family unit. A picnic on the floor Christmas morning while you open presents, decorating the house or tree together, sharing what you are grateful for over the previous year, a walk at the beach or a cricket match. Creating something that is meaningful together can bring you closer together and stimulate conversations about what matters to you both.
If you need further support at this time of year than please contact me to book a session before Christmas, where I can support either you as an individual or through couples counselling. Getting in early and learning to work as a team can really make a positive difference to your relationship.
Ginny Lindsay is a Sydney based relationship counsellor and psychotherapist who supports individuals and couples moving from pregnancy into parenthood. With 40% of divorces happening during pregnancy or in the first 3 years of a child’s life, Ginny established From 2 to 3 to offer support early before a relationship breaks down.