5 Ways To Become More Deeply Connected To Your Spouse This Christmas Season

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How To Reduce Stress During The Holidays & Deepen Intimacy With Your Spouse
Love, Self

Don't let this stressful time of year pull you apart.

Stress can be overwhelming and affect every area of your life from your health to your intimacy with your spouse or partner, especially during the holidays. Learning how to deal with holiday stress is something that many people have never learned to do properly.

When you know how to reduce your stress, you'll see the benefit it will have on your relationships, marriage, and overall health and happiness — both during the Christmas 2018 season and all year round, too.

It’s no secret: Most of us live stressed out, media-overloaded lives. Add on the demands of the holiday season, and it’s enough to feel completely overwhelmed — especially when it feels like you don't have any ways to cope with stress.

RELATED: 7 Easy Ways To De-Stress During The Holidays

How can you cut through the noise, stay sane, and keep an intimate, emotional connection with your partner during this joyous season that's intended to help us connect more deeply to those we love, rather than pull us apart?

Here are 5 tips for how to reduce holiday stress this Christmas 2018 and instead focus on relationships and deepen intimacy with your spouse, too.

1. Breathe

During cases of stress, you tend to breathe in a shallow manner. This leads to increased feelings of anxiety, tension, and emotional stress. Harvard Health Publishing describes the benefits of taking deeper breaths: "Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange. That is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, it can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure."

One of the simplest ways of dealing with stress is adding a breathing practice to your day. As the day has a tendency to get away from you in this season, it’s best to schedule centering activities in the morning. Set your alarm a few minutes early. Upon rising, find a quiet spot and take a few moments to concentrate on your breath.

Take a breath in, while counting to four. Hold your breath for four counts and then exhale to the count of eight. Repeat this breathing practice for five minutes, or longer if you can. If you notice that you are feeling stressed during the day, simply take a few deep breaths. You can easily do this at your desk at work or in the car, without anyone noticing, and there you have it! You're already managing stress better!

Invite your partner to join you in this practice, and you can both explore new ways to deal with stress together.

2. Be international with your dinner time

During the holiday season, many people yearn for inner quiet and connection. However, given the stress that your full lives often cause, you experience the opposite and lose a grip on how to cope with stress. One of the times you can intentionally practice being present is at dinnertime.

Whether you choose to cook or serve take out, make an effort to make dinnertime a peaceful experience at home. Agree with your partner to make meals a time without phones. Being constantly pinged by others about their holiday plans or what presents to get for whom can wait.

Turn your phones on silent and remove them from your dining room. When you sit down to dinner, light a candle and close your eyes to take a few breaths together, say a prayer, or reflect on gratitude in your relationship. Then enjoy your meal and give each other your undivided attention. Ask your partner how he/she is doing and make space for meaningful conversation.

Not only will this help you learn how to handle stress, but it's also great relationship advice!

3. Make a date in nature

Stress impacts your health. It’s no surprise that the holiday season is equivalent to flu season and that signs of stress can also coincide with cold symptoms

To nip this in the bud, plan some outings in nature with your mate. A growing body of research proves the beneficial effects of nature on your health. However, in this busy time, an outing far out of town may not be possible.

Fortunately, parks and other urban green spaces have also been proven to share the beneficial health effects of nature. They not only affect our mental well being by reducing stress but also help your physical well being by promoting movement. And don't forget that getting healthy together is also great marriage advice.

RELATED: 10 Ways To Get REAL With Yourself About Stress (So Life Doesn't BURN You Out)

An article published by the National Association of Parks and Recreation states: “The body’s positive response is remarkably fast, occurring within minutes. Studies by environmental psychologists show that visual exposure to nature, in the form of trees, grass, and flowers, can effectively reduce stress, particularly if initial stress levels are high.”

So meet for lunch or go for a walk together after work in a park to reconnect and let go of the stress you accumulated over the day.

4. Let go of outdated traditions

Most people follow traditions each year that have been handed down to them by their family. You engage in them whether you like it or not. The ones you follow blindly but don’t produce a lot of joy in you can have the opposite effect: They become stressful.

Examine which ones have meaning for you and decide which ones don’t seem to add anything to your holiday season. Take them off your list. For years, I baked a wide variety of cookies each year, as this is what my grandmother and mother did. I love the warm feeling and rich scents wafting through the house that baking brings.

While I wasn’t willing to give up having homemade cookies, making all the varieties and especially finding exotic ingredients that our family recipes required became a burden. Today, I make one type of cookie: Pecan Sandies. They are mine and my husband's favorites. Ingredients are readily available and they are easy to make.

Best of all, they provide us with the same cozy feeling as if we had made ten varieties, but leave us time to enjoy them together without feeling exhausted.

5. Visualize your goals together

Schedule a time between Christmas and New Year's Day when you have some downtime to sit together and discuss your goals for the coming year. Each year, my husband and I take a few days after Christmas to go on a retreat together. During that time we not only relax, but we also write out our visions for the coming year. We write them out in the categories of career, relationship, finances, and health.

We each do this separately first. We then sit together and share what we came up with. We discuss how to make our two visions align and look for ways in which we can each support the other in reaching the individual goals. We then create a vision board together to create a visual reminder of our goals that we hang in our kitchen. This keeps us focused on our goals and fuels discussions.

Carving out time to do this together creates immediate closeness and helps you stay connected throughout the year.

RELATED: The Scary Truth About What Happens To Your Body When You're Stressed

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Selina Schuh is an educator, author, speaker, and owner of Empowered Living Strategies. She teaches women who are feeling frustrated and under-appreciated in their relationships step-by-step skills to create deeply connected relationships and offers a library of free resources to help.