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5 Tips for Successful Holidays During COVID-19

The holidays will look different this year, but different can be special.

Source: Lorado/Getty Images
Source: Lorado/Getty Images

This guest post is by Dr. Andrea Tesher.

The winter holiday season is a deeply meaningful time for many people. It is a season of joy, excitement, sharing happiness, gatherings, and showing loved ones that they are thought of or appreciated. However, even in a normal year, the holidays can also bring up negative emotions, such as anxiety, depression, loneliness, and stress.

We all know that this year brings the added challenge of a global pandemic, which has placed us in the position of having to make difficult choices and sacrifices in order to protect ourselves and our loved ones. The holidays are going to look different this year, but different does not mean that they cannot be just as special. Here are a few tips for maintaining emotional well-being and increasing the likelihood of holiday success:

1. Plan ahead.

Being proactive and making organized plans can reduce stress. Make a list of things you need to do and when you would like to have them done. Think about the people you would like to gift or reach out to. Perhaps you may expand your circle this year to include more people. Staying socially connecting is so important during this time of physical distancing. Arrange to connect with those that bring you joy.

2. Be flexible.

Understand that although you may plan for things, something could happen to throw you off course. These are unprecedented times. Maintaining mental flexibility will allow you to more easily move in an alternate direction if needed. Rigidity and inflexibility will be more likely to result in stress and other negative emotions.

3. Keep traditions.

Traditions are customs that we do each year that are typically passed on through generations. Many families have traditions for the holidays that are quite significant and meaningful. At times traditions can connect us to loved ones we have lost. This year, we may have to get creative with how we can keep traditions alive.

Or perhaps it is a great time to create a new tradition. For example, you can find a fun virtual game to play with family at a distance. You could pick out a new recipe everyone can follow and then eat together virtually. Involve your family and brainstorm ways to keep the old or develop new traditions.

4. Maintain self-care.

Make time to take care of yourself. Exercise regularly, follow good sleep hygiene, eat well, and engage in hobbies that bring you pleasure. These are key ingredients to psychological well-being.

5. Simplify.

Your normal may be to have big celebrations with lots of homemade foods and neatly wrapped presents, waiting to be distributed. Cut back where you can. For example, although it may be satisfying to cook for your family, this may be the year to order prepared food. Consider gift cards instead of trying to find that “perfect gift.” Take on what you can and aim for happiness, not perfection.

We may not know what to expect of the holidays this year, but with these strategies in mind, we can work to uphold the positive emotions the season can bring. If you do find yourself struggling, please reach out to a family member, a friend, or mental health professional for support. Happy holidays to you and your families!

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