Marriage Counseling and Dealing with Family and Holiday Difficulties


Marriage counseling at Take Charge, Inc. is available for spouses so they can navigate the holidays together, whatever life throws at them. This time of year can be especially difficult when you have experienced a loss or trauma. For many of us, the holidays seem to magnify the pain of the passing of a loved one, the end of a relationship, a debilitating illness, employment termination, or the loss of a home. A NAMI study also showed that 64% of people with mental illness report holidays make their conditions worse. Going through marriage counseling can be especially helpful around a painful time of year.

For individuals and families coping with mental health, the holiday season can be a lonely or stressful time, filled with anxiety and depression. If you’re living with any mental health condition, stress can also contribute to worsening symptoms. The holidays often present a dizzying array of demands — cooking meals, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, to name just a few. With some practical tips, you can minimize the stress that accompanies holiday madness. You may even end up enjoying them more than you thought you would.

5 Ways to Cope this Holiday Season

  1. Sleep – Often times sleep routine is vital for coping with traumatic associations, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, emotional flashbacks, and other trauma related symptoms. When traveling or having other’s over during the holiday, sleep routine is naturally thrown off and the body begins to feel a familiar feeling of ‘lack of safety’ and the nervous system begins to react. If you depend on a sleep routine, make a list of what you can do to increase consistency as much as possible. Be kind to yourself! Put your own mental and physical well-being first.
  2. Managing Energy Levels – With the disruption in routine the nervous system is already on a higher alert. This means, it’s burning our energy at a higher rate than usual. Maintaining a relaxed nervous system increases a sense of safety and therefore decreases the sense of panic associated with trauma. The trauma response stays at bay and the trauma reactions, symptoms remain at ease. During the holidays, we may want to stay out later, attend social gathering longer, and forget that this also disrupts and triggers our trauma related symptoms. Prioritizing your time and activities can help you use your time well. In these situations, it’s important to have an exit strategy if you need one, communicate with loved ones ahead of time, and take as many breaks as you need.
  3. Write a Gratitude List and Offer Thanks – As we near the end of the year, it’s a good time to reflect back on what you are grateful for, then thank those who have supported you. Gratitude has been shown to improve mental health. In the midst of it all, is there something or someone for whom you are grateful?
  4. Be Realistic and Set Boundaries – The happy lives of the people shown in those holiday commercials are fictional, we all have struggles one time or another and it’s not realistic to expect otherwise. Sometimes, it’s simply not possible to find the perfect gift or have a peaceful time with family. Family dynamics can also be complex, acknowledge that and accept that you can only control your role. If you need to, find ways to limit your exposure.
  5. Grief – With trauma, grief is common. With the holidays, grief can arise from trauma anniversaries, memories or better or worse times, loss of ‘ideal parents’ or ‘friends’. It’s ok. Know that this is common. Grief is going to arise and that’s ok. It’s temporary and you are safe in your grief. You will not stay in this place forever but, allow the mind and body to process the grief that you may experience. Write down the memories, allow them to come, be kind, compassionate and caring in your trauma grief responses this holiday season. Talk to yourself as if you were a child grieving. “It’s ok you are safe now, those were painful memories and hurtful times, it’s safe to cry now and to miss those individuals even if they hurt you.”

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) is used by Terri Dichiser at Take Charge, Inc., during marriage counseling. EFT counseling is based on therapy with your spouse in the safe environment of Terri’s office to help you create a haven of safety and strength in your marriage. Marriage based on a connection with your spouse that makes you stronger as an individual and in your marriage. Be especially mindful of the impact the holidays can have on well-being and its influence on trauma reactions. Marriage counseling can help one or both spouses deal with the trauma they endured. Terri uses EFT to help you and your spouse move past the surface problems you face into the root issues that brought your relationship to this point.

Your life does not need to be a lifestyle magazine photo spread. Simple is better, and we often remember the quaint fails with more warmth than the pristine table. The holidays can be a time of stress on a marriage, but marriage counseling can also help it go smoother, and know what to anticipate and how to deal with it. For more information about marriage counseling, call Take Charge, Inc. at (913) 239-8255 or you can schedule an appointment online.

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