As the Christmas holidays approach, in this article I discuss some lessons the festive season offers on how to manage stress effectively and have good relationships.
Managing stress and having good relationships are two of the most common issues I help people address in my work as a Calgary psychologist and a Cochrane psychologist. As with every issue, there are specific strategies I encourage my clients to engage in to make progress.
It can often be easier for my clients to add these strategies to their repertoires by seeing the benefits they and others enjoy when they use these strategies. For the issues of managing stress and having good relationships, the best time of year to see people doing what they should be doing is the Christmas holiday season. During the holidays, people who may not ordinarily practice good stress management and relationship-enhancement activities often do so with good effects.
Unfortunately, many people revert to not using these strategies once the holidays are over with the expected negative effects on their ability to manage stress and have good relationships. In the following sections, I will describe the key strategies people tend to use more of during the holidays and how they can continue to use these throughout the rest of the year to help them manage stress effectively and have good relationships.
Holiday lessons for effective stress management
During the holiday season, most people take some much needed down-time to relax and engage in enjoyable activities as a break from the stresses of everyday life such as work and school. Doing so allows people to recharge their physical and emotional batteries so that they are in a better position to deal with these stresses following the break.
Unfortunately, many people do not take enough time to recharge during the rest of the year as out of choice or necessity they work for long stretches without downtime. This leads them to feel physically and emotionally burned out and ultimately results in their performance deteriorating at work while other parts of their lives, such as relationships, suffer.
The antidote to this burnout is to apply the lessons of the holiday season by taking time during the rest of the year to have breaks which allow you to recharge your physical and emotional batteries. Although such breaks may cut into the amount of time you spend on work and other tasks, you will be pleasantly surprised that your productivity on these tasks is likely to improve significantly because of your better mood and energy levels as a result of the downtime. Your enjoyment of life will also be much greater.
Holiday lessons for having good relationships
During the holidays, many people go out of their way to spend time on their relationships connecting with others. Whether they be intimate relationships, family relationships or work relationships, the Christmas season is a time when the ‘relationship friendship’ moves to the forefront while the ‘problem/issue/conflict’ side of relationships takes a back seat. This welcome respite from a focus on issues and problems not only builds positive feelings among the people in the relationship, the positive feelings generated then make it much easier to work through problems and issues constructively.
Often it’s the case during the rest of the year that there is not enough time set aside for relationship friendship activities and the focus is primarily on issues and problems. The negative consequence of this lack of connecting time was aptly described by Dr. Phil on his television show as follows: “If all you talk about in your relationship are problems, then you have a relationship problem.” Dealing with problems effectively is much more difficult when there is a negative perspective on the relationship as a result of insufficient time spent connecting in friendship-building activities.
What are the holiday lessons in this instance? Once the Christmas holidays are over, try to set aside time in your relationships for friendship-building activities. You will be pleasantly surprised at the positive feelings you will have toward the people with whom you interact and at how much easier you will find it to deal with issues as a result of the presence of these positive feelings.
So whether you’re working at improving your relationships in relationship counselling or couples counselling or honing your skills in stress management counselling, using the holidays as a guide to ‘how it’s done right’ will serve you well.
May the spirit of the holiday season be with you throughout the year,