Many of us have experienced loss and grief over the last 18 months. As we enter the holiday season during active COVID transmissions, you may find it challenging for friends and family members to gather safely. How can we manage the stress of the holiday season when heightened by the specter of contracting or transmitting COVID?
Here are some suggestions to make the holiday season safer, enjoyable, and stress-free:
Recognize your stress early.
It’s essential to recognize what pressure looks like in order to build your resilience and manage stress, and know where to go if you need help. Signs of stress include feeling angry, in denial, uncertainty, nervousness, anxiety, tiredness, overwhelmed or burned out, sad or depressed, and trouble sleeping or concentrating. Keep these healthy habits in mind such as:
- Keeping a regular sleep schedule.
- Maintaining a daily routine, such as spending time outdoors, either being physically active or relaxing.
- Taking breaks from COVID-19 news, including social media.
- Eating healthy meals and staying hydrated.
- Plenty of exercise.
- Avoiding the use of drugs and alcohol.
- Stretching, breathing deeply, or meditating.
- Checking in with your supportive colleagues, coworkers, family, and friends.
Embrace your emotions and the changes during COVID.
The loss of family members and friends causes grief and often creates changes. How can you allow yourself and your family to be open to emotions and alterations? Try to balance traditions you love with feelings of sadness by sharing memories, adding new ideas for a gathering outside, or connecting through Zoom for frequent conversations. Expect that the holiday season won’t remain the same. Adjust your mindset to consider a few things:
- The most important holiday tradition is connecting with loved ones and showing them how much you care.
- If you are open-minded, you might find a fun, new tradition that you want to try.
- Not everyone will agree at the start. Be ready for a dialogue that helps see changes optimistically.
Make plans early.
One of the best parts of the holiday season is looking forward to traditional activities, meals, and gatherings. If those can’t happen this year, try thinking as far ahead as possible and make other plans so you, your friends, and your family still have things to anticipate. Try involving unique ways to connect with family or friends, like using technology, creating a new activity, or starting something new with your local family at home. There are virtual games, ways to watch movies, and lots of ideas out there if you plan. When talking with your family and friends, it can be helpful to have a few ideas to get things started so that everyone knows there are positive and enjoyable possibilities.
When you feel stressed, get back to your self-care.
Self-compassion, or treating your suffering, is the same type of support and compassion you offer to others. It enables you to accept your stress with kindness. Being kind to yourself as your best friend is a powerful way to find your center after a difficult challenge. It’s easy to let our regular routines go with all the busy plans around the holidays. Ensure you stick to your self-care routine.
If you don’t already make time for self-care, there’s no better time to start. The most challenging feeling many of us have is loneliness. As human beings, we require social interaction by our nature. To address your loneliness, you can use Zoom calls and FaceTime chats, as well as regular phone calls, text exchanges, and other ways to digitally connect.
You may be experiencing panic attacks, nightmares, trouble sleeping, or paranoia. Create a self-care routine such as going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, can help calibrate your body’s internal clock. This promotes deep sleep.
It’s no secret that this year has been challenging, and many of us will be faced with increased stress this holiday season. But, if we plan ahead, focus on things in our control, and keep a healthy routine, we can all make it through and bring joy to ourselves and our families in the process. That is what the holiday season is all about.