Couples suffering from holiday chaos just need a little perspective
By Laura Shinn
December can be crazy, right? Cray-Cray. Insane in the membrane. Coo-coo in the coconuts. If month of December were a person, she’d probably be a kooky old aunt. The one that loves you, and means well, but always makes you a pair of hand-knit underwear. Yeah, that aunt.
But we have a secret: December is all about perspective. After all, how could you let a wacky old aunt stress you out? She just wants to love you, and keep your butt warm.
Same with December. The intention? Give generously and spend time with the people you love. The reality? Frantic shopping with the masses, a boatload of parties, family events fraught with emotion and zero quality time with your partner or spouse. Yep—holiday overwhelm is a thing, especially for couples. So if both of you are suffering from seasonal chaos, try introducing a little perspective.
Here’s how you can find it:
Yes, it’s that “M” word: mindfulness. For couples, making a practice out of each other’s presence can really help. “Mindfulness is being very very present,” says Dr. Pepper Schwartz, professor of sociology at the University of Washington in Seattle and co-author of Snap Strategies for Couples. “So present that it feels like ‘flow’. Create conditions for flow—which can be anything from lighting candles to putting down the device and making eye contact over conversation—so that easy way of being with each other can resurface.”
Which leads us to…
The Seattle-based Gottman Institute, an organization run by husband and wife team Doctors John and Julie Gottman providing practical, research-based tools to strengthen relationships, has one word for you: connection. And for couples, it’s not just about sex; it also means giving each other time, attention and affection. Turning towards each other and really being present for each other, especially during times of stress like the holidays, is key. A great example of a mindful, turning-towards practice? Hugs. Not a flimsy squeeze, but a long, 20-second embrace. This releases oxytoxin, which then decreases the heart rate and reduces the output of stress hormones. And that’ll go far when it comes to finding calm in the holiday chaos.
And then you can…
CHANNEL NANCY REAGAN
Just say no. No one’s gonna die if you and your partner don’t make to the annual Soup & Sing this year. No cookie party? No problem. And holiday cards: are they necessary…or is it just a yearly keeping up with the Joneses? Identify what really matters during the holidays for you, instead of getting caught up in the out-of-control merry-go-round that is December.
And then spend the time making memories the best way you can: together.
Laura Shinn is a Portland, Oregon-based writer and strategist covering health, wellness, food, fashion and culture.