by Terry Rogers
The holidays are often stressful, but mental health experts are concerned that this year may be especially difficult. There are already a lot of demands on people during the holiday season, such as extra cooking, shopping, cleaning and entertaining. However, with COVID-19 cases on the rise in many communities, stress levels may be higher than normal. This may be due to concerns about your health or the health of others as well as changes to your traditional holiday plans. There are methods you can use to reduce your stress. Not only will this help your mental health, it could also protect your physical health.
The first thing you need to do if you are feeling stress during the holidays is to recognize your feelings. Admitting that you are suffering from stress is the first step in dealing with it. Take a few minutes to breathe and try to determine what is causing the stress. If it is grief over someone who passed away recently, allow yourself time to grieve their loss. If the fact that your traditions are not possible this year due to the pandemic, you need to allow yourself to grieve over that loss as well.
Depression, anger, anxiety and grief during the holidays can be extremely difficult to manage. Reach out to friends and family in order to talk about what is bothering you. A phone call or video chat is a great way to get your fears and anxiety out to someone else who may be able to offer you some advice or support when you need it. There are also many professional services available. Reach out to a religious leader, community counseling center or even a national hotline to get the help you need.
This year’s holiday will more than likely not be the same as previous years. Many people are not comfortable in groups due to COVID-19 and have decided to remain home during the holidays. Instead of dwelling on what traditions you cannot carry on this year, create new ones. If you normally have a large family gathering which is not possible this year, set up a family video chat. Programs like Zoom allow you to actually see your family members on the holidays. You could even plan a gift opening video chat where everyone opens their gifts at the same time.
Financial stress is another factor that can lead to anxiety during the holidays. Set a budget and stick to it for all your holiday needs, including gifts, food, even Christmas cards. This year, since you may not be able to actually give gifts to your friends and family, consider alternatives. Options include donating to a charity in your friend or family member’s name, making homemade gifts or set up a family gift exchange using video chat.
During the holidays, you may also tend to ignore your health. There are more indulgent foods like cookies, fruitcakes and lavish meals during the holidays. Before a holiday meal, eat some healthy snacks to avoid overeating. Remember that the holiday is one day, not an entire month, so limit your indulgence to that day only. Keep up your regular exercise routine and avoid overuse of tobacco, alcohol or drugs. Try deep breathing methods like yoga or mediation.
The best thing you can do is to take time for yourself, not just this holiday season but every holiday. Spend 15 minutes each day alone, without distractions, to center yourself and relax. Take a walk, listen to soothing music or read a book.
This year’s holiday season may be much different than other years due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. These tips can help you manage your stress not only this year but in years to come.