The holidays can be a wonderful time of tidings, pumpkin spice, eggnog and good cheer. It also can cause anxiety-provoked hives, headaches and meltdowns. No matter what your family situation is, whether you plan to travel or not, or whether you intend to host a feast, this time of year can make you hit tilt.
If you and your significant other are feeling the pressure from awkward political discussions, endless potlucks or potholes on those long drives to see family, you may need some one-on-one R&R to keep your sanity and relationship intact.
Here are some ways to ensure that your season is merry and bright with couple quality time.
Make a night of playing (the right kind of) games with your honey. Sure it will still get your blood pressure up when your significant other is about to sink your battleship, but a round of good, healthy competition over Chutes and Ladders or Jenga can be a great way to take your mind off holiday stress with some mindless fun.
If you are the plugged-in type and prefer a digital playground, turn on that Xbox and see who can beat the high score.
Or grab one of your favorite vintage board games like Connect Four, Yahtzee or Monopoly for a childhood tournament challenge. Pair those game pieces with a nice Bordeaux or a pale brew ale and some holiday croons from Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra.
It’s a perfect way to decompress from the hustle and bustle of the winter months … as long as you win.
If you need to relax, then you need to knead the stress away. According to Greatist, studies show that a massage is not only good to relieve those sore spots, but it can also help you relax.
With all the stress you are under to buy, wrap, bake, pack, clean, fly, decorate, schlep and spend, it isn’t any wonder that your stress would be sky high. Massage can calm your nerves and even improve your mood.
If having hands on your hard body seems like a comforting thought, why not turn it into a couple’s night?
Instead of booking an appointment for muscle relief at an expensive spa, you and your beloved can take turns rubbing each other’s feet, pushing pressure points and toppling tension with a few Swedish strokes.
You can even add some essential oils to your evening. Lavender is calming, while peppermint helps to relieve pain, according to Holistic Essential Oils. If you combine all of this with a slow hand and an easy touch, who knows where it will lead? Probably nirvana.
One of the best things about the winter season is the explosion of colorful lights and decorations wherever you go. This is a fun (and often free) way to enjoy the season, no matter what you celebrate. Grab your boo and a thermos of hot cocoa, Irish coffee or your fun adult beverage of choice and take a trip to your local neighborhood light display.
Some neighborhoods have actual contests for who can deck their halls with more wreaths, twinkle lights and inflatables. Let their competition be your gain, as you wander through a winter wonderland, admiring their dedication to all things glitter and glow.
If your neighbors are more “bah humbug” than boughs of holly, look for your city’s center. Many have displays for you and your turtle dove to admire, as well as storefronts that get creative for the winter season.
Sip. Ooh. Awww. Hold hands. Repeat.
‘Tis the season of giving, but not every gift comes wrapped up in a package.
The act of volunteering is a great way to help others and help you and your partner forget your troubles. If you’ve had a Griswold-style holiday road trip, donating your time at a food bank can be a good reminder to laugh off life’s annoyances and chalk them up to “making memories.”
Many are lonely and forgotten during the season of comfort and joy, so visiting an assisted living facility, reading to children or even fostering a pound puppy or shelter kitty is a wonderful way to create community while bonding with your babe.
If your mountain is covered in snow, take a day to ski, snowboard or slide down the side in an inner tube. If there isn’t a hill close by, perhaps an ice skating rink can get you moving and in the mood for the season.
You can also consider renting bikes, going for a run or taking a class together. Even signing up for a dance class could be beneficial, not only for your blood pressure level but for your love level as well. You know what they say — it takes two to tango, so this would be the perfect time to learn.
It is the harvest season, made clear by those ever-present cornucopias and the high volume of pies.
Whether you go with store-bought tarts or make yours from scratch, there is something satisfying about going out to an orchard, climbing a tree and filling your bag with shiny apples. You can harvest some relaxing, fun memories with your beloved with an apple-picking trip.
Make like Adam and Eve and include your partner in this “original sin” — which should only be considered one if you let the season pass you by without seeing foliage up close and personal.
If you aren’t living in a climate that allows you to pick fruit off the trees, you can pretend you are foraging for your own feast at your local farmers market. Some of these food fairs are just as quaint and rustic as the farms you find in the countryside.
Plus, haggling over produce prices can really make you feel like you are the hunter-gatherer type. It’s even better when you can bring home your bounty together and make sweet treats.
OK, you have to bake them first — unless you can find the right kind of cookie that comes in all the holiday cut-out shapes that you would feel good about leaving for Santa, the Great Pumpkin or by the menorah.
If you want to really be DIY, roll out that dough together and make some shapes and laughs.
You can set up a decorating bar with frosting, icing tubes, candies, sprinkles and a little bit of spiked cider or eggnog to make the evening more interesting. See who comes up with the most original cookie design, and who ends up wearing the most frosting by nightfall.