November 8, 2020

3 Ways to Manage Stress & Anxiety during the COVID-19 Holiday Season.

Whether we spend it together or alone, it will undoubtedly be a different kind of holiday season. 

Even in a normal year, the holidays can be a mixed bag for people. It either brings a sense of excitement and joy or creates anxiety, stress, and dread. (And sometimes it’s a bit of everything!)

Because this holiday season may bring new challenges, it will be more important than ever to think about what you will need to cope through it now, rather than waiting until you are in the midst of it.

Waiting creates an opportunity for hard emotions to grow, making it more challenging to think clearly and cope effectively at the moment. Coming up with skills and practicing them ahead of time will help you move through any challenge more smoothly when it presents itself. So do yourself a solid: make a plan and cope ahead.

If you think there’s a chance this holiday season will bring challenges for you, these are a few skills you can practice alone (or with the family).

Your COVID-19 holiday coping plan:

1. Keep traditions alive while you’re apart, or start new ones virtually

If you and your loved ones have holiday traditions or are interested in trying something new, now is the time to get creative! Perhaps everyone could make the same meal or side dishes and virtually eat together, or you can research virtual games to play and make sure everyone is set up on the tech side in advance. Of course, it won’t be the same as your in-person tradition, but you can still be with your loved ones, have some fun, and feel connected. Maybe you’ll even start a new trend you can bring to future in-person gatherings.

2. Keep faith in the power of structure

Regardless of whether you relish the upcoming family time, dread the impending togetherness, or plan to spend the holidays alone, structure can be a best friend to you during this season. That’s because having structure allows us to focus on the task at hand. Knowing what is coming next helps manage feelings of uncertainty, loneliness, and anxiety so we can stay present.

Start thinking about your structure now by creating a list of activities you could do on those quiet days when you might be feeling more vulnerable. Maybe you could go for a walk, make your favorite meal, bake, read for enjoyment, FaceTime loved ones, or create a movie or book list. These are just a few suggestions to get you started!

You don’t have to pack your schedule, but having one or two tasks, fun items, or even chores each day will help you manage your mood more effectively.

3. Keep it simple

You don’t need to plan a grand gesture to cope ahead. Small skills can make a big impact. When practiced over time, your mind will learn to rely on these calming practices, so in times of stress, those same simple skills can help improve your mood.

For example, you could curl up in a comfortable blanket, make tea, eat something you enjoy, light a scented candle or spray a scent that you like, or go for a walk and notice what you see and what you hear.

You could also listen to a podcast or audiobook, take a hot shower or bath, clean a section of your room or home, do laundry, meet a friend for a socially distant walk, or write postcards to snail mail to your loved ones. Practicing one small skill each day will not only help improve your mood, but it can also become a part of your daily structure!

Whatever you choose to do this holiday season, creating a plan to deal with possible anxiety or even just a list of possible strategies can help you prepare for any potential challenges. So create your COVID-19 holiday coping plan now—give yourself some things to look forward to!

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