Stress Takes a Holiday

holiday stress

Picturesque, but filled to the brim with pressure—that is the holiday spirit people have come to expect in this season. Doug and Leslie Gustafson, licensed marriage therapists and intimacy coaches and owners of Authentic and True Counseling and Coaching in Lone Tree, would like to change that.

Approach the November and December strain as a couple with a solid communication system in place, says the husband-and-wife team, and you’re a lot more likely to keep stress at bay. Here, the Gustafsons get the festive times rolling with advice on five common difficult scenarios. Happy holidays, here we come.

Your spouse wants to spend a ton on the kids’ presents. You want to take a less-is-more approach.

Instead of playing tug-of-war over the gift budget, Leslie says, take some time to sit down and unpack the reasons for your different strategies together: “Did your parents overindulge you as a child? Or do you feel you did not get treated well, which makes you want to offer more gifts?” Framing the conversation this way will help you reach a compromise. “When we understand and have empathy for each other, the likelihood of coming to a loving, mutual decision is greatly increased,” she says.

Your mother-in-law keeps trying to control the holiday meal menu, but you’re hosting.

The key here is to strike a loving and assertive tone, letting your mother-in-law know you have it covered. Doug suggests reminding her that when she hosts, she gets to decide, and you’d like the same privilege. But do tell her you’d be grateful if she could bring “that favorite dish of hers that everyone loves.”

Out-of-town family comes to stay in your home every year for a week. It’s a bit much. Is there a way to pare the stay down to four days?

It’s important, first, to re-evaluate what you want the holidays to look like, says Doug: “Then, prioritizing those goals means being clear with others—in kind ways—as to what works and what doesn’t. Try saying something like: We are excited to spend time with you during the holidays. What four days might work best?”

You find you’re doing most of the holiday chores. How can you get the rest of the family to chip in?

Before the holidays are in full swing, have a conversation with your partner and the kids about the scope of your celebrations, suggests Leslie. What’s your vision for the holiday season? Who is going to be responsible for what tasks? “In other words, emphasize teamwork as you are planning,” she says.

You feel your family is glued to phones and tech devices, but you’d like to disconnect.

Communicate that you’d like to have quality time and set defined limits when tech devices need to be put away, Leslie says. Maybe the kitchen table is a cell-phone-free zone. “For kids, parents must set the example,” Leslie says.

Authentic and True Counseling and Coaching