Have you ever said to yourself, “I really cannot take another holiday with my significant other’s fill-in-the-blank“? Well, I can honestly say I have never had that thought; I have been blessed with wonderful in-laws. But the reality is, many married couples will go through some challenging times over the next two months.
While researching for this week’s blog, I knew I wanted to write about the stress and anxiety that the holiday season brings. And in my research, I stumbled upon a very troubling statistic. Did you know, that the chance of divorce amongst married couples increases drastically after the holidays? So much so that January has been given the moniker of “Divorce Month” in lawyer’s offices.
Studies have also shown that the poor mental health of one person in a marriage has a higher risk of divorce. This investigation from 2011 showed that all 18 mental disorders in the study were “positively associated with divorce”. Additionally, the study attributed that people with mental disorders such as “specific phobia, major depression, and alcohol abuse” are at a greater risk of divorce or never getting married.
Let’s look at four ways we can avoid suffering a setback over the holidays in our journey to better mental health.
4. Avoid Isolation
As someone who suffers from major depressive disorder, my number one method to avoid having a mental episode is to get away from the stressor. Curling up into a ball is not healthy. I love my family and I love visiting with them over the holidays, however, with everything going on, I can sometimes get lost in the room. If you find yourself becoming lost in the conversation, take a step back before you have that setback. Look around the room and seek out someone to whom you can speak too.
One of my many triggers is public gatherings with friends or family. I cannot count the number of times I have started looking for ways out, even while on our way to the event. When my depression strikes, I become detached from the world around me and simply want to be left alone.
The important lesson from this point is simply this — Avoid isolating yourself either physically or mentally. But if the need does arise, be sure to take some time away for yourself. The key is to try and avoid long-term isolation.
3. Share the Load
As I have noted before, you should avoid overcommitting yourself. When you are planning this year’s holiday festivities, be mindful that you are not alone. Involve family members in the planning and implementation of the holiday party this year.
If you are typically the person who bakes all the cookies and makes all of the chocolate candies, elicit support from others. Have some of the older kids take on duties you have had sole ownership of all these years. Trust me, involving others will help to make an already stressful time more enjoyable for you and those around you. Also, you may be surprised to learn your sister-in-law also makes a delicious cookie.
The important lesson to take from this point is, to be true to yourself. Be realistic about what you can and cannot handle. Because overcommitting yourself will ultimately lead to more stress and anxiety. And always remember this, it is okay to say no.
2. Pick a Base Camp
I like to think that my wife and I have become experts at holiday travel.
Twenty-two years ago, our jobs brought us to North Carolina. We knew going into this adventure that holidays had to change. There was just no way we could visit everyone on their terms. Thankfully, my family and my wife’s family live relatively close to each other in West Virginia. However, there have been times when we felt pressured and/or rushed to see everyone when we visit. With this being the case, we made the conscious decision early on to pick a base camp. Pick one or maybe two locations as the place(s) where we will be while visiting. If the family wants to see us, then they know to come to one of the base camps.
The important lesson to draw from this point is to avoid the stress and anxiety of trying to see everybody. We are fortunate that our families live close to each other however if that were not the case, we would be alternating which family we visited each year.
1. Married? Your Extended Family is Not Your Number One Priority
Alright, here we go. Before marriage, a Christians’ priorities should be God first followed by parents second. But then, as mentioned in Genesis 2:24, when you leave your parents and marry your spouse, you and your spouse become one flesh. After this marriage, your number one focus remains on God however your secondary priority changes to your spouse. Period! And when you have children of your own, they become your number three. Period!
And as one flesh, why would you even consider involving someone else? You cannot have your spouse and your parents both as your number two. Otherwise, the passage in Genesis 2 would have been written differently.
This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh. Genesis 2:24 (HCSB) vs This is why the man, his father and his mother, bond with his wife, and the three become one flesh. Genesis 2:24 (Today's Culture)
The important lesson to draw from this point is that you cannot please everyone in your extended family, nor should you. You have to do what is best for your spouse. And did you notice that I did not say “what is best for you”? Well, remember this, God first and your spouse second. Get over yourself and don’t call your mom or dad first.