It is important to remember, that as we enter the holiday period, stress can run high. This can take a toll on our intimate partnerships, as well as on ourselves. Be sure to take into consideration, your expectations of yourself and others. Try to maintain realism.

Unrealistic expectations, can set us up for disappointments and negative feelings, whether we express them or not. Also, being aware of what we have control over and what we do not, is an important boundary that allows us to “let go” when things are not as we planned, hoped, or preferred them to be.

Preparing for holidays, taking a minute to do a body scan, to notice areas where tension may be building, can be useful to reduce stress levels. Stop, breathe, notice areas of tightness especially in the jaw, neck, back, and shoulders, and what feelings and emotions might be present in this moment of awareness. Just this simple pause, can head off potential conflicts with a partner.

A key “culprit” behind many couples’ arguments, is not a lack of love for one another, but the tendency in perceived stressful circumstances, for the human brain to go into a “fight or flight” response. This is also known as “Amygdala hijacking,” where emotional responses are intensified. Depending on our emotional style, we may find ourselves verbally attacking/criticizing and/or emotionally withdrawing/dismissing our partner or others.

For couples at the holiday time, thinking ahead and creating strategies about people/places/things that can cause such an emotional response, is an important part of self-care and relationship maintenance. Knowing about and understanding, without judgment, each other’s emotional styles and tendencies, can also aid in navigating through holiday stress. When emotions signal an important need, encouraging dialogue related to that need, deepens our intimate connection, and can help us optimize holiday time together. Then holidays can provide a source of lasting positive memories throughout our relationship together.

For more information, please contact Ann Arbor Couples Clinic, (734) 417-9522.