Managing relationships around the holidays

Managing Relationships Around The Holidays

As we enter November, we’re also entering the start of the holiday season. 

This can be a tense time of year for many of us–especially since it feels like there is so much external pressure to have it be the most wonderful time of the year. But with the season of holiday parties and presents is also a lot of stress. We have to worry about managing our time and money more throughout this time of the year, we have to juggle social engagements, and we have to navigate complicated schedules and relationships. 

And this year may be particularly difficult, as it is the second holiday season through the pandemic, so on top of the typical holiday stress and business, you may be dealing with intense feelings of grief and loss this time of year

The holiday season is also tough on our relationships. 

While it’s typically a time of year we spend with friends, family and other loved ones, it often isn’t as easy or carefree as we would like it to be. The pressure to be at every party, to get the perfect gifts, and to make the season as special as it can be, can actually ruin our experience of the holidays! And since this time of year tends to have so many demands on us, it can make our relationships feel like chores, instead of something to cherish!

So what can you do to prioritize managing your relationships this holiday season?

Get comfortable saying no

A big problem many of us face this time of year is overcommitting ourselves. We want to spend time with everyone we know! And many people are having parties for Thanksgiving, various religious holidays that occur this time of year, and new years! But when we overcommit ourselves and try to spend time at every event every person we know hosts, we start to both add too much to our plate, but we also sacrifice the quality of time shared with loved ones. If you’re jumping between too many things that you really don’t have time for, most of your energy will probably just be spent thinking about all of the other things you still need to do or the other places you still need to go. Instead, figure out which events are important to you to attend, and commit only to what you know you will have the time and energy for.  

Decide what you can reasonably accommodate this season  

Like we said above, figuring out what you can say no to is an important part of taking care of yourself + your relationships in the holiday season. But, it can feel like the opposite. If you’re trying to be attentive to your relationships, it feels counterintuitive to decline an invitation. But prioritizing the quality of time spent together is always better than trying to just show up at as many parties as possible. Make a game plan for yourself. How many parties/events can you reasonably make time for? How many holiday presents can you afford to buy?  Are there traditions you won’t have time for? If you can’t do everything you’d like to do, or everything you’re invited to do, maybe offer some alternative suggestions when declining an invitation! If there’s a party you can’t make, can you offer to take the host out to coffee in the new year? That way you can communicate that it’s important for you to spend time with them, but that your holiday schedule just can’t accommodate it. 

Focus on enjoying the experience

In relationships, there’s often lots of gift related pressure. But there are a lot of creative ways to take the pressure off of the gift buying and giving experience, and put the emphasis back on the relationships. Some ideas could be: 

  • Setting a price limit on gifts: Take the pressure off by giving everyone the same limit to work from, so no one is worried their gift isn’t “nice enough” 
  • Doing homemade gifts: Focus on the thoughtfulness and care behind the gift, instead of trying to prove you love someone by getting them the nicest thing you can find. 
  • Doing no-gifts: Get together for a strict no-gifts party. Everyone saves the energy that would normally be used up shopping for the perfect gifts, and uses that instead to enjoy quality time together. 
  • Pick an experience: Instead of gifting items, whether it’s with your friend, family or partner, pick an experience or activity that you can do together, and have that be how you celebrate the time of year together. 
  • Make something together: Is there some sort of art or craft you could get together and make? Then everyone can leave with something, but the priority is still the time spent together.  

Have regular check in’s with your partner

It can be hard to stay on top of your own stress and ask for help when you need it. Talk with your partner about making it a regular practice to check in with each other. You can offer each other the support you need. Regularly ask each other about your stress levels, if there’s ways you can offer support, if you need to reevaluate your holiday commitments, etc.