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Counteracting COVID’s Added Stress at Family Gatherings

December 4, 2020

During an ordinary holiday season, you might be thinking about how to navigate sensitive political conversations, avoid relapse triggers, and find meaningful ways to spend time with your loved ones. During the 2020 holiday season, you may be doing all of that while also managing pandemic stress or you might be spending the holidays alone. Either way, we have some options to help you manage your stress — and even enjoy the holidays! — regardless of the situation you find yourself in.

How COVID May Change Your Holiday Celebrations

Because COVID-19 cases are continuing to increase, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is strongly recommending smaller gatherings for holiday celebrations, being outdoors when possible, and interacting with individuals who have been adhering to social distancing guidelines. This might mean only getting together with your household or immediate family for the holidays. Elderly and immune-compromised relatives may be especially vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19, so it’s safer to have virtual get-togethers with them instead of meeting in person.

As you continue to wear a mask, wash your hands, and try to keep six feet away from others, you may feel safer but less connected to your community. In these circumstances, don’t underestimate the power of video calls, phone calls, and texting. In fact, the video meeting platform Zoom ordinarily free calls up to 40 minutes, but they lifted the 40-minute restriction for Thanksgiving this year. You may be seeing fewer of your friends in person, but that doesn’t mean you can’t see them on a screen or have meaningful conversations about your lives and what you’re grateful for this season.

Be sure to connect with who’s around you — friends, roommates, or immediate family…

A common recovery mantra is, “This too shall pass.” We can say the same thing about the COVID-19 pandemic. In the meantime, focus on what’s in front of you. Spend some time out in nature if possible, either to reflect or exercise. Try some new recipes for holiday meals. Be sure to connect with who’s around you — friends, roommates, or immediate family — and reach out to others via phone, email, or video chat, especially if you’re by yourself for the time being.

How to Cope with Altered Plans This Season

Just because you can’t do what you would ordinarily do during the holidays doesn’t mean you can’t do something special or create new traditions. You may have some extra time on your hands, so turn toward healthy coping mechanisms instead of being tempted to overeat, smoke, or drink alcohol.

Here are a few you can try:

  • Reach out to one person each day. Throughout the holiday week (or month), send a daily text, email, or even a card to someone you care about and let them know why you appreciate them.
  • Dig into a new hobby. Pursue something you’re already interested in — or take a leap and try something totally different. This could include drawing, writing, putting together puzzles, baking, painting, soap making, coding, calligraphy, an indoor or outdoor sport, reading, videography, pottery, or cooking, just to name a few. If you’re with kids, involve them as much as possible — let them add ingredients to a dish, work with a ball of clay, color a picture, or help you solve a puzzle.
  • Change your environment. If you start to feel depressed or anxious, altering your environment can help. Move your furniture around, put on a new bedspread, or create a picnic spot in your living room. Christmas lights don’t always have to go outside or on a tree — they can be an excellent decoration for your small indoor celebration. And you can always hit the sidewalk, the local park, or a hiking spot for a change of pace.

Overall, resist the urge to compare this season with other seasons. You’ll certainly notice the difference, but you don’t have to dwell on the negative. Instead, count up what’s positive or unique about the situation you’re in now.

How to Know If You Need Help for Depression or Anxiety

We all feel down sometimes, and this year has caused an increased level of stress for everyone. But if you feel like you’re dealing with persistent depression or debilitating anxiety, it may be time to find support. This is especially important if you have previously struggled with substance use or are using substances more frequently than you were before.

The Louisville Courier Journal offers a few helpful questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you sleeping excessively or much more than usual?
  • Do you feel easily angered or irritated for no particular reason?
  • Are you resisting or hesitating to respond to texts or calls from friends and family?
  • Do you find yourself regularly talking or writing about negative things or how bad you feel?
  • Do you feel hopeless, moved to tears easily (or unable to stop crying), or irrationally afraid of what might happen?

If so, we encourage you to get in touch with a friend, family member, or counselor. If you are having suicidal thoughts or sense that you are in danger of addiction or relapse, please contact our team today.

Help for Emotional and Mental Health Issues at Willow House for Women

For those seeking help for emotional issues, mental health conditions, or substance use disorders, the Willow House for Women is a safe haven of recovery. We help women rediscover their value and find physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual healing. We treat co-occurring disorders, emotional trauma, and intimacy disorders so that you can be restored to personal wellness and have healthy relationships. We would love to tell you more about our program and help you get started on the journey to recovery.