How to Deal with Stress Over the Holidays as a Couple

Most of us associate holidays with good times with family and friends. However, the holiday season is also a time of increased stress or grief for some.

As the-end-of-the-year celebrations get closer, your deadlines, commitments, upcoming holiday plans, and need to buy gifts can make you feel stressed and anxious. And if you have a blended family with stepchildren, the holidays may be especially challenging.

There is much to be communicated and compromised when you have a blended family. For example, the holidays may be tense and stressful when you have to decide how much time each parent will spend with the children over the holidays or which family to visit first. Also, you may worry about which family traditions to follow and what to get for your stepchildren.

So, many couples seek couples counseling to cope with stress during the holidays.

However, there are things you can do as a couple or family to manage the challenges during the holidays. Here are four strategies for navigating stress over the holiday season.

1. Plan Your Holiday Budget Together

Budgeting and setting boundaries are not easy when it comes to holiday expenses. So, make a holiday spending plan together and stick to it. Also, focus more on meaningful activities you can do together or as a family instead of buying gifts.

2. Start a New Holiday Tradition

Starting a new holiday tradition with your kids can be a great way to celebrate the holidays and unwind. Activities like making DIY holiday ornaments, having holiday movie nights, or holiday cooking with children can be a fun and easy way to maintain structure and reduce the holiday stress.

Also, doing things with your family, like volunteering in your community, can teach kids how important it is to be kind and help others.

3. Set some “Couple Time” to Turn to Each Other’s Bids

Years of research have shown that a strong emotional connection is the foundation of any healthy, long-term relationship. Dr. John Gottman, the leading relationship and marriage researcher in the US, claims that being receptive to your partner’s emotional bids is crucial to creating a healthy relationship. These small but significant exchanges are called emotional bids for connection.

According to Dr. Gottman, every turning toward increases the value of your emotional bank account. Your savings in this account can protect you in times of stress by making it much less likely that the stressors will lead to trouble.

To invest in your emotional bank account:

  • Be mindful of each other’s needs.

  • Discuss your stress, both internal and external, in open communication.

  • Be honest about your feelings and express thankfulness every day.

4. Seek Family Therapy

Blended families with trouble keeping up with life’s daily responsibilities may find that participating in family therapy is a great solution. Family therapy has been shown to help solve various interpersonal issues and family challenges.

Counseling for couples and families can be a safe place to identify problems, understand where they come from, set up boundaries, and resolve conflicts.


Couples counseling and family therapy can help couples and families deal with problems and improve how they communicate. However, there are things you and your partner or family can do besides going to couples counseling to deal with the stress of the holidays.

Creating new family traditions and staying connected and supportive of each other can protect your relationship and help you grow as individuals, a couple, and a family.


Janean Byrne is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor in Fort Myers, FL. She specializes in couples counseling and couples’ therapy. She works with couples to enhance their communication, connection, and friendship. Janean is passionate about helping couples stay together, which she believes has become increasingly difficult today. She is trained in Level II John Gottman Couples Training and Certified in Prepare Enrich for Couples. Janean Byrne also enjoys working with families with adult children and individuals involved or previously involved in emotional abusive relationships with partners exhibiting narcissistic or borderline personality traits.

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