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Holiday Stress During a Pandemic

Written by: Amanda Levison, M.S., LMHC, LPC, CCBT

The holidays can be tough between the physical challenges and the emotional obstacles that can occur; it's easy to feel overwhelmed. On top of this, COVID-19 has added even more stress to an already stressful time of the year. We now have the added pressure to manage our children who are off from school and their academic needs getting met to then make sure holiday plans are set and gifts are bought for loved ones. What is supposed to be a happy time of the year can quickly become stressful and anxiety-inducing. What are some ways you can keep the holiday blues at bay without stress during a pandemic?

1. Plan ahead.

To ease the anxiety or frustrations that can build, develop a game plan. Speak with family members in advance to discuss your feelings on gatherings outside of your immediate family. If choosing not to attend holiday gatherings, explain to family members why you feel the way you do. If family members become upset or argumentative, listen to their feelings, and offer validation. Everyone is being affected by COVID-19, and it is important to remind others that we are all in it together.

2. Make a schedule.

Making a schedule can help keep plans and obligations in order. You can create a schedule or use a planner as basic or as detailed as you feel you need. Write in time for holiday shopping, family plans, and self-care time as needed. Keeping it written down and on hand will organize time and make sure we do not miss anything.

3. Be realistic with holiday expectations.

While some plans and traditions might not happen this year, do not let this drag you down. Set realistic expectations of what will happen this year and will not and allow yourself the opportunity to cope with the loss of traditional holidays. Take these changes in traditions as an opportunity to make new traditions and find fun things to do.

4. Plan for a way out.

Think of a way "out" when you need to take a break. If you feel overwhelmed by a person, the conversation, or the food, maybe change the room you're in, go for a short walk, or excuse yourself and go to the bathroom and reach out to a friend who you find to be a support. These are all ways you can step away while being appropriate.

5. Address hurdles.

It's essential to identify possible hurdles and plan out how you will address them at the holiday get-together. You may find it overwhelming with specific topics that are brought up. If that's the case, think of polite ways to acknowledge these topics brought up and divert and come up with a different conversation or address it and share if you don't want to delve into it too much.

Regardless of how overwhelming the event may be, family and friends are there to support you, and the holidays set the tone for traditions and are part of a culture, and it's important to see the benefits of them outweigh the cons. Try not to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of feeling obligated to have gifts ready, holiday cards sent, and decorations up. Remember that the holidays are a time to feel togetherness with loved ones and take time to rest and relax.


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