Take the overwhelm out of the holidays

couple celebrating xmas with champagne

The holidays are supposed to be a fun and relaxing time of year, but they can become the most stressful time, marked by a larger than usual to-do list and a full calendar of events. We are often consumed with so much activity that people get exhausted and it impacts their relationship, leaving them feeling lonely or angry without the capacity to enjoy spending time with family or friends. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with holiday preparations, take some time to learn how you can save your relationship from being over-consumed by stress. This year, aim to create a restful holiday season - your relationship will thank you!

Make time with your partner

Carefully choose who you share your holiday plans with and make sure you leave time for you and your partner without family or friends intruding. Let your partner know they are a priority in your life, including during the holiday season. Be clear about your expectations, communicate what you need from them, ask them what they need from you, and plan dates / times that are special for just you two. Don’t let holiday activities consume all of your time together or fall into old patterns where one person does all of it.

Family Members

We all have them, love them, can’t live without them, but also find it hard to let our guard down when they are around. We worry about conflict which is often due to personality differences or values clashes.  With some deep breaths, avoiding taking things personally and reminding ourselves it is only for a few hours or a few days, we can usually cope.  The key is finding ways to get through family gatherings with minimal stress and maximum joy.

Focus on what you can control. Put aside your guilt about not cleaning that oven or folding those socks so you can enjoy yourself. It won’t be perfect anyway! And do whatever you need to do in order to take care of yourself so that you don’t feel resentment at being with family.*

* Sometimes conflict or deep discomfort is a result of intra-family trauma or abuse.  If this is the case, consider getting professional support about how to cope without being re-traumatised, or how to draw a line and minimise contact.  Your mental wellbeing and emotional safety is important.

Give yourself permission to relax

It’s okay to make time in your holiday schedule to relax. Allow yourself to enjoy some down time with family and friends—yes, that means you don’t have to take every single invitation. If you feel like hitting up every party is unrealistic, plan an activity (or two) with your partner or kids instead of attending each one. Or spend some time alone doing something solo.  When it comes down to it, quality time beats quantity every time.

Decide how to celebrate each holiday

Do you host the New Years Eve Party? What do you do during Hanukkah? Will you spend Christmas morning with your family or celebrate by yourself on Christmas Eve instead? You may not be able to attend every holiday gathering, but do plan ahead of time. Think about where you will spend each holiday. And don’t forget your friends: How can you celebrate with friends who are single or spending it with someone else’s family?

Create your own Holiday traditions

When people are overwhelmed by holiday expectations, they can get stressed out. To prevent that from happening, establish some family traditions that centre around fun activities instead of presents. If you set up some low-key traditions in advance, you won’t be at risk of overdoing it during one eventful month. It also helps to plan ahead so that you aren’t stuck trying to think of something special last minute.


The holiday season is paradoxically one of the most stressful times for relationships, with a spike in break-ups around this time.  The Counselling Space has couples’ appointments available over the holiday season to help you and your partner get through.


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