Navigating the 2020 Holidays

Some Ways to Cope with Holiday Stress

We may all be taking a break for the holiday season; thank GOODNESS! But it’s likely that COVID-19 stress is not taking that same break. If you are finding yourself feeling stressed or sadness about this year’s holiday season, you’re not alone.

It feels a little overwhelming to consider how to effectively fight stress through preparedness this year, while also acknowledging the desire to connect safely with loved ones. Let me offer some validation: The research is showing that burnout is more a risk factor than it’s ever been for helping professionals and healthcare workers. Here is a list of strategies and suggestions to keep in mind as we enter into the holiday season.

1. Take. The. Break.—this one needs very little explanation. Don’t work over your break if possible; leave work at work. This is a BREAK. Take it. You deserve it.

2. Set Realistic Expectations- Be realistic about what you can and can’t do. Pace yourself and do not take on more responsibility than you can handle (this includes finances AND your valuable time). Focus on what you can do! Hot tip: Take a to-go hot chocolate mug and drive around to take in the Christmas lights.

3. Name it to tame it. It’s inevitable that our lots of our expectations will be unmet this year. Acknowledge the feelings that arise and write about it, talk about it, pray about it; whatever feels most comfortable for you.

4. Make new traditions. We may all very well be burned out on virtual gatherings, but this year it’s important to get creative while connecting. Share your photos of your décor, play interactive games, host a holiday online movie night, or cook the same meal and share the meal online.

5. Get grateful. Gratitude can unshackle us from unpleasant emotions and research shows it can literally change our brain structure for the better. Intention is the key; try thinking through or writing down one thing you’re grateful for each day (morning, afternoon, or night).

6. Practice patience with the kids in your life. Remember, stress affects the little humans in our lives in different ways. Take some time to talk with the children you love about the ways it can feel to manage this holiday season.

7. Set Boundaries—Setting boundaries involves the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others. This year, an added stressor may be that you have family members who have different opinions about COVID preventative measures. Remember, you can always be the one to set the positive example by socially distancing and wearing a mask at family gatherings. Change the subject or walk away from uncomfortable conversations. You have permission to say “no” if you are feeling overwhelmed by holiday activities and expectations. Some quick phrases to say no respectfully are: “I can’t take that on,” or “my plate is full.”

8. Move. Try to get in some light movement each day of the break; you do NOT have to develop a vigorous workout routine to start feeling better. Creative ways to incorporate movement: dance around while you’re waiting for the water to boil, look up “chair yoga.” There’s always the tried and true stroll around the block too 😊

While the holidays may bring stress and grief this year, I’m trying to focus on the joy of having some time off. Remind yourself practice what we preach. When feeling overwhelmed or down, ask yourself what you would advise your own patient, client, or loved one. Practicing self-compassion will be important as we navigate the possible alternative reality of this year’s holiday festivities. Also, keep in mind, 2021 is right around the corner. I wish you all peace and comfort this year!

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