How to Have a Harmonious Holiday Season

By Dr. Jess Relationships couple hugging during the holidays

The holiday season is upon us and you’re likely gearing up for a month of celebrations, merriment, and cheer.

This is, after all, considered to be the most wonderful time of the year.

But for many of us, December brings additional stress, lifestyle shifts (e.g. less sleep and more alcohol consumption), an increase in household responsibilities and a spike in financial spending. It follows that the festive season can also be a time of stress and conflict between loved ones.

But the holidays need not be stressful. You can have a harmonious holiday season simply by planning ahead and being mindful of how you spend your time and energy.

I share ten tips for a happy holiday season below and we encourage you to share your tips and insights with your loved ones:

couple's feet in bed

Be mindful of lifestyle changes.

Eat, drink and be merry and pay attention to how changes to your diet, sleep schedule, and exercise routine affect your mood and the way you interact with your lover and other loved ones.

Research suggests that when you’re sleep-deprived, you’re more likely to misread your partner’s signals and experience higher levels of interpersonal conflict. Just as consuming alcohol inhibits frontal lobe functioning, so too does missing out on a good night’s sleep, so try to prioritize a good night’s rest between revelry sessions.


Reschedule your holidays

If the holidays are really about spending time with loved ones, the date of a celebration may not matter, so it’s worth considering how you might rejig your schedule to make it more manageable.

For example, if you plan to spend a week relaxing and recharging with your partner (or on your own), you may want to schedule some time in between your holiday and potentially stressful events and get-togethers.

One couple I know schedules a romantic getaway to the mountains from December 26th to 31st, so rather than packing everything in on the 24th and 25th, they celebrate the holidays with their families on the second weekend in December. They both deal with tense relationships with their siblings and they want some time to calm down before they head out for their romantic escape.

mistletoe hanging

Be playful!

If you’re fortunate enough to celebrate the holidays with a loved one, have fun with your time together.

Take advantage of the mistletoe and move it around strategically so that you have an excuse to lock lips.

Buy a gift that inspires physical touch, sensuality, and affection —check out Astroglide’s O Oil Liquid a lubricant that doubles as a massage lotion!

If you see that they’re stressed out while visiting family, pull them aside for a sneaky make-out session in the bathroom.

Run them a bath as soon as the guests leave and force them to relax while you start cleaning up.

Lighten the mood and cook, clean or wrap gifts in the nude. The burden of chores often lightens along with the weight of your clothing.



Some holiday seasons are more stressful than others for practical reasons, so sometimes it can be useful to take a trip down memory lane. If you’re feeling angry, resentful or irritated by your loved ones this year, think back to a holiday that was filled with joy. Talk about those fond memories and be inspired by the possibility of creating new ones.

jar with coins

Set a budget.

Whether you exchange gifts with your partner, parents, siblings and/or your extended family, talk about expectations from the onset. There is no universal etiquette when it comes to gift-giving and you don’t have to match what other people spend.

In fact, I encourage you to consider whether or not you want to exchange gifts at all. Is this a tradition that you genuinely enjoy, or do you do it out of obligation or tradition? Have you discussed your budget (for gifts, donations, food, and drink) with your partner? Oftentimes we argue about money because expectations and values related to finances can be linked to your upbringing, familial beliefs, personal values, insecurities, conceptions of responsibility and more. Money is an emotional issue and the best way to reduce the likelihood of conflict is to plan ahead. Ask specific questions. Listen intently. And then dig into the feelings that underpin your financial values (e.g. Do you want to spend less this year because you’re looking to make a job change in the new year and want to build up your nest egg? Do you want to spend more generously on your parents because it makes them feel loved and appreciated?)

There are many ways to express love and show generosity without overspending. And financial stress is a leading cause of relationship strife, so you’re likely to find that the holidays become more harmonious when you plan ahead and cut back on spending to reduce stress.


Choose your family wisely

Conflicting feelings about the holidays are common, as we don’t all feel loved and supported by our blood relatives. Cultural messages suggest that we should take comfort in spending time with our families, but this simply isn’t realistic in every family.

Many of my clients celebrate with “chosen family” rather than linking love with blood ties alone.

If we planned quality time around how we feel in one another’s company instead of doing so around DNA, we’d likely see a reduction in holiday stress levels — and happier relationships.


Share the Love

Money can buy you happiness…as long as you’re giving it away. Research shows that spending on others, volunteering and supporting charities is good for your health and happiness and this can lead to warmer, more fulfilling relationships.

Choose your favorite charity and donate a few hours or dollars alongside your partner or other loved ones. Collaborating to help others is a great way to give back and deepen your connection.

couple holding hands

Take a trip!

Heading out of town over the holidays and opting out of big family celebrations doesn’t mean you’re running away from your problems. If your mental and physical health will be better served by a romantic escape to the beach or a solo trip to a big city, you have the option to prioritize your own needs.


Steal one of your partner’s chores

If your partner tends to be overwhelmed with responsibility (e.g. cooking, cleaning, shopping for gifts), be enthusiastic about lending a hand. Set your alarm clock fifteen minutes early and complete one task on their to-do list before they wake up.

Better yet, plan ahead and compare lists to ensure that neither of you is disproportionately tasked with managing household and family labor.


Examine your role in holiday stress

We have a tendency to look for outside sources to explain our stress, but it’s equally important to be introspective. If you’re fighting with your parents, siblings, friends or partner(s), ask yourself what you could do differently to ease the tension.

Very few unhealthy relationships are entirely one-sided and since you can’t change anyone else’s behavior, consider what you might change on your own.

For example, can you accept offers of help and stop playing the martyr. Would you consider being more accepting of the fact that your partner doesn’t have to share your family values? Have you thought about apologizing for past mistakes? Can you let old issues go and genuinely move on to focus on the present? Can you help out more to reduce your partner’s stress levels?

If you accept even a small amount of responsibility for your relationships, it’s likely that your loved ones will follow your lead resulting in more harmonious relationships over holidays and all year long.