Navigating the Holidays During the Pandemic

Tips to mitigate anxiety and stress while enjoying family and friends during COVID-19

Even under typical circumstances, the holiday season can bring mixed emotions of excitement, anxiety, joy, burnout, conflict, and loneliness. It’s only natural that these emotions would be heightened during the ongoing global pandemic. Despite hopes that our lives would be back to pre-pandemic “normal,” people all over the world are gearing up for their third COVID-19 holiday season. If you’re feeling conflicted about the holidays, you’re not alone. With COVID fears, politics, vaccination, masking, and social distancing preferences taking center stage, establishing healthy self-care and inner balance is more important than ever. Let’s take a look at a few ways you can manage your stress and anxiety around COVID while enjoying the holiday season with your family and friends.

Recognize your feelings

Before you can set your boundaries and expectations for the holidays, it’s important you understand your feelings surrounding the events. Are you feeling anxious or stressed out? Are you feeling depressed that your holiday traditions are being disrupted? If you’re anxious, pay attention to whether or not your anxiety stems from the virus or if it stems from the typical holiday hustle and bustle.  It’s also essential to understand and validate how your immediate family is feeling. For example, is your partner or spouse comfortable with your upcoming plans? How do your children feel about the upcoming holiday season? Once you understand how everyone in your home is feeling, you can establish your holiday boundaries and comfort zones.

Establish personal boundaries

Recognizing your boundaries and sticking to them is essential to your mental health and safety this holiday season. Before you start committing to plans, it’s important you determine what is comfortable for you and your family. Do you prefer outdoor gatherings, or are you more comfortable with indoor activities? Are you comfortable attending events with people who aren’t vaccinated? Will you be wearing a mask when you are around other people at the holiday event? Once you determine your boundaries and comfort levels, express them to your family and friends. It’s within your right to express your social distancing requirements, and if your needs are different from others, you don’t have to compromise unless you feel comfortable. For example, you can say, “I am not comfortable attending in person, but I’d love to attend through Zoom or Facetime.”

Be flexible and throw perfection to the wind

With or without COVID, trying to create the “perfect” holiday can take a toll on you mentally. With disruptions to the supply chain and lack of staff, you need to remain flexible for travel dates. Plan ahead and shop in advance to avoid struggling last minute to find what you need for your holiday traditions. It’s also important to enjoy your holiday celebrations regardless of the date the celebration occurs. Instead of focusing on what’s different this year, focus your attention and energy on enjoying your holiday traditions and events in the moment.

Avoid comparison

What works for one may not work for another. It’s important to avoid the comparison trap. This can include comparing this year’s holidays to past ones as well as comparing your plans to what other people are doing. If social media leaves you feeling deflated or anxious, take a break from scrolling and instead focus on all of the exciting and fun things you will be participating in this holiday season. 

Get creative with remote celebrations

If you don’t feel comfortable or simply aren’t able to enjoy holiday events in person, stay connected through virtual means. Whether it’s Zoom or Google Meet, you can get creative with your virtual festivities. From singing carols Karaoke-style or holiday dinners by video, focus on what you can create this holiday season within your comfort and safety levels. 

It’s ok to say no

You are within your rights to say no to an event that you do not feel comfortable with. If gatherings are stress-inducing, only attend the events that are important to you. Respect yourself by providing a polite “no thank you” to invitations that stress you out, burden your schedule, or tax your mental health and safety boundaries. If you are feeling pressured to attend, simply state, “I have other plans.”  There is no need for further explanation.

Make the right decision for your family

Some families may not be ready for in-person social gatherings, while others may feel perfectly comfortable with holiday social gatherings in any setting. If you’re unsure, discuss the benefits and risks to determine the best option for your family within your comfort zones. At the end of the day, you need to do what is best for your family and your children.  If you are struggling with how to approach the upcoming holiday season, we can help. At Cypress, our team of mental health professionals provides compassionate care within a judgement-free environment to help you manage the challenges impacting your mental health and wellness. Contact a member of our team to learn more.