By: Nathan Michels
Licensed Professional Counselor | UP Health System
With its myriad joyful and time-honored traditions, the holiday season is a cherished time of the year for many. Unfortunately, it can also be a stressful and emotionally trying time, especially for those juggling numerous obligations or coping with the loss of a loved one. And as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in our community and across the country, we are finding ourselves rethinking how we celebrate this year, which could create new challenges and potentially stressful situations.
Keeping stress at bay is an essential part of maintaining good mental and physical health and can help keep our immune system running as it should – a goal that is especially important right now. The good news is that there are some simple seasonal strategies you can adopt to minimize stress and help keep the happy in your holiday.
Creating New Traditions
The ongoing pandemic means that reconnecting and spending time with family, friends and loved ones at holiday gatherings can be a risky venture and potentially spread COVID-19 in our community. It can certainly be frustrating to have holiday traditions like these thwarted this year. But instead of focusing on what we aren’t able to do, consider creating a few new traditions. How about a movie night with family or roommates who you are currently “quarantining” with at home, with a favorite holiday film, individual servings of homemade popcorn and special holiday pajamas? Or a fun, secret gift exchange with out-of-town relatives whom you normally wouldn’t be able to see. You can exchange gifts through the mail and open them together virtually on Zoom. New traditions can help minimize the disappointment over canceled events, and you might even discover a new annual tradition to keep for future holidays.
Embracing the Pace
This year’s holiday calendar will certainly look more open than usual, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. How many times have we worried over conflicting schedule obligations and stressed (and even grumbled about) about the frantic pace of the season? This year, many of us have seen our social calendars slow down considerably to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, and that trend is set to continue during the holidays. Lean in to the slower pace of December this year, and savor the time given to both reflect on what the season means for you and enjoy the company of those within your own household. Maybe this is the year to have that FaceTime with old friends you’ve been meaning to connect with, or to finally have that quiet Christmas at home you’ve been wanting, without time-consuming travel and last-minute errands.
Whether you’re struggling with a less social holiday season or facing your first holiday without a friend or loved one, this can be a difficult time. It’s important to remember that you are not alone, and it is more than okay to talk about what you’re going through. Reach out to family and friends, even if you aren’t able to see each other in person. If you’re struggling and need to speak to a counselor or other behavioral health provider, don’t hesitate to do so. Stay connected.
The holiday season will certainly look different for us this year, but these strategies afford us an opportunity to minimize stress and anxiety around this year’s challenges and can help us remember to find the peace and joy still awaiting us during this special time of year.
If you or someone you know is suffering from stress or another mental health condition, UP Health System is able to safely provide help. Talk to your provider today or call 844.411.UPHS (8747) to get connected with one.
Additionally, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to those in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. You can reach the hotline at 800.273.8255 or at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org.