How To Deal With Holiday Stress This Festive Season - SACAP
Management & Leadership

How to Deal with Holiday Stress this Festive Season

Dec 20, 2022
How to Deal with Holiday Stress this Festive Season - SACAP
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Family is wonderful. But that doesn’t mean spending time with them during the festive season won’t result in holiday stress.

According to Dr Ashley Smyth, SACAP’s Dean Emeritus, the reality of the season differs vastly from the merry displays you see in shop windows. This is because there are lots of factors that go into the season. And it’s not just about family and friends. It’s also about winding up the year, so everyone is tired. Then at the back of your mind, you’re worrying about finances. And while you juggle menus and fret about the gifts, you may also be squabbling about in-laws with your partner. All of this at the same time as you’re trying to get into holiday mode and spread some festive cheer.

Essentially the holiday season can come with a myriad of challenges. So even though you looking forward to it, you might need a little help dealing with holiday stress. Here are four areas, Dr Smyth shares insight into, which could help you fare better this festive season.

1. The Art of Negotiation

Consciously or not, holidays always involve an element of negotiation. Whom will you see? When? And for how long? Dr Smyth suggests that family members – and friends who are considered family – fall into four categories during this process.

4 Family and Friend Categories

  1. People you want to spend time with.
  2. People you want to (and must) spend time with.
  3. People you don’t want to (but must) spend time with.
  4. People you don’t want to (and must not) spend time with.

“The fourth category – those we don’t want to spend time with and mustn’t spend time with – are the toxic elements of the family.” It’s usually easier to chat around avoiding contact than juggling people. This is why the tricky group, and whom we need to negotiate most around, are those in the third category. Often discussions about these people are emotive, so it’s where we end up feeling frazzled and pulled in multiple directions.

The first step to dealing with the third group is to have a discussion with your partner. During it, you need to agree on what the options are and which are best suited to you both. Then, within those chosen options, you need to agree on what you’re comfortable negotiating around with your family. After which you can then chat with your families.

The aim is to be reasonably flexible and accommodating. But not for the build-up to become so logistically stressful that everyone ends up upset before celebrations begin.

2. Reaping what You Sow

Dr Smyth points out that we all have ‘love’ and ‘belonging’ needs. The holiday season gives us an opportunity to have those needs met. However, expectations are not always met as thoroughly as we’d like. Nevertheless, our family still plays an important role in helping us feel like we belong. This is because we all need a community through which we understand who we are. Our feelings of ubuntu are what affirm us in our position and place. Additionally, it’s important that kids see how their parents connect and interact with other adults. It’s a learning point from which kids mould their own building of community and family from what they witness.

Dr Smyth emphasises that you can’t expect the benefits of having a family if you have done little to nurture family relationships throughout the year. It’s therefore helpful to see the festive season as a pay-off for the rest of the year. A happy, family celebration relies on good and solid family relationships established over a period of time. This means that once-a-year interactions are often counterproductive to making the festive season special. Accordingly, your festive season reflects the richness, or lack, of your family life.

3. Burying the Hatchet

Without exception, every family has rifts and tensions. Dr Smyth suggests that sometimes just being invited or being the invitee can be a big step towards resolving conflict. Then if there’s a need for a further conversation, that door is opened as well.

However, if the conflict has caused an estrangement, it may be easier to start with an email conversation before issuing an invite. Doing this could help unpack more serious issues in a less confrontational way. And then assist in planning a way towards reconciliation. To do this you need to be honest so that the other person can understand where you’re coming from. And you’ll need to listen to their perspective and hurts.

When your family does get together, ensure small squabbles don’t widen into big rifts. If necessary, agree to avoid certain topics – such as politics or religion – entirely. Try to discuss logistical issues in a family meeting so that everyone knows where they stand. Remember your aim is to enjoy family time together, so keep your eyes on that goal. Therefore, you’ll need to take the higher road of not looking to score points or win people onto your side.

4. Bridging the Divide and Building Bonds

Some families are far apart geographically, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have close relationships. Here are four ways that can assist in building closer relationships with those far away.

  • Get creative with online platforms and apps. Schedule regular weekly meetups. You could do stories with grandparents or play games with cousins.
  • Embrace snail mail or a courier service. The immediacy of modern technology is great, but few things beat something sent via post. Your kids will enjoy putting together care packages and will love getting something back in the post.
  • Find an app that works for you. If scheduling time is tricky then connect through sharing videos and photos or voice notes.
  • Make it a family effort Whether you’re creating a blog or a family YouTube channel, get your kids involved. Help them to film, choose and upload what they’re keen to share.

Connecting with family and friends requires effort and a conscious decision. But once you get the ball rolling, you’ll discover it adds value to life between visits. And when you see each other in person, it’ll be about picking up where you left off. Rather than trying to find some common ground to reconnect on.

Help Families to Connect

This article highlights methods that will be familiar to those with an interest in the counselling profession. Specifically, methods that assist in conflict resolution and stress management. Counsellors can play a vital role in strengthening families, and through them, communities as a whole. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in counselling, SACAP offers a range of counselling courses. For example, a Diploma in Counselling and Communication Skills and a Bachelor of Psychology. For more information, enquire now. Or enrol online today.

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