A pandemic holiday: Managing the stress

The pandemic has added stress to the season, but there are plenty of healthy ways you can cope and enjoy time with family.

  • Acknowledge your stress and anxiety by writing down tasks and mapping out how to tackle them.
  • Stay connected with loved ones through phone calls and video chat.
  • Don’t hesitate to seek professional help when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

[4 MIN READ]

After a year like 2020, it’s a bit of relief that December is finally here. But that relief may fade quickly as you think about managing your holidays during a pandemic.  

While everyone is affected by holiday stress in some way, women may be more likely to take on additional tasks or add to their already long to-do lists in the spirit of helping others. And this year, it can feel even more overwhelming with taking on additional home responsibilities and remote school, all while finding time to squeeze in as much work as possible with everyone in the house. Add to it, holiday shopping, stress over paying bills and planning zoom parties for the family, and it’s a recipe for overload.

You may also be feeling the pressure of providing a little extra magic for your kids or other family members, who have missed out on a lot of fun this year. Or you might be racking your brain trying to find creative ways to replace in-person traditions.

It can be hard to carve out time for yourself when you’re focused on your family’s needs and holiday tasks — but it’s possible! 

With all this piling up, it’s vital that you take some time for yourself and stay mindful of the small joys and victories in your life. It can be hard to carve out time for yourself when you’re focused on your family’s needs and holiday tasks — but it’s possible! Tending to your mental health can improve your physical health and give you the resilience you need to tackle your to-dos and care for your family.

Here are some tips to help you de-stress during the holiday season and beyond.

Acknowledge your stress

One of the first steps in overcoming holiday stress is to determine what’s causing that stress. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a few minutes to acknowledge your feelings and find the source of the anxiety you are feeling. Consider writing down these stressors and then mapping out solutions.

And don’t underestimate the power of a simple to-do list — creating one can help you feel more organized and less stressed.

Try some breathing exercises

A few minutes of deep breathing exercises or meditation can go a long way. The box breathing (or four-square breathing) technique is a common suggestion for coping with COVID-19-related stress and anxiety. You can also try diaphragmatic breathing.

Meditation is also a great way to slow down and focus on your breathing. Helpful apps like Headspace can get you started with a guided meditation.

And if you’ve got mask anxiety adding to your stress, try these breathing exercises and tips.

Make time for exercise

Exercise helps your physical health and is an excellent way to boost your mood and emotional health. Start by putting 20 to 30 minutes of exercise time in your calendar to help you remember.

Exercising at home saves you lots of time (and money), which can also ease up on that holiday stress.

With many gyms closed or offering limited services, working out looks a little different these days. But here’s a bonus: Exercising at home saves you lots of time (and money), which can also ease up on that holiday stress. There’s no need to pack a workout bag or spend time traveling to and from the gym.

Try browsing video workouts on YouTube or check out these easy ways to exercise at home. You can also ask your local gym, YMCA or yoga studio if they’re offering online classes.

Maintain a healthy diet

There are food temptations aplenty during the holiday season, but maintaining a well-balanced diet can do wonders for your mental health. Try to avoid giving into stress eating and keep in mind these healthy eating tips:

Stay connected but avoid video chat overload

An essential part of mental health is our social health, which has recently taken a hit. While you may not be able to gather with loved ones traditionally, make sure you’re still setting aside time to connect. A quick phone call, a Zoom dinner or a virtual game night can ease your mind and help you feel more fulfilled.

Just be sure that you’re not over-extending yourself. Sure, you may not need to leave your home to attend these different holiday “parties,” but a packed schedule of video chats and phone calls can leave you exhausted and burnt out.

Don’t be afraid to say “no” or offer to reschedule to a day when you know you’ll have more time and emotional space to talk.

Don’t be afraid to say “no” or offer to reschedule to a day when you know you’ll have more time and emotional space to talk.

And instead of catching up on the latest headlines — which aren’t likely to help your mental health — use the time to share stories. Storytelling is about being honest, listening carefully and being authentic with your loved ones, all of which can boost health, wellbeing and hope

Get creative but don’t add more pressure

As important as it is to spend time on yourself, it’s also essential to spend time with your immediate family. Dedicating a few hours to a fun activity can help take your mind off of the stress. Try these ideas:

Give yourself time to reflect

The holiday season can sometimes feel like a whirlwind of tasks and juggling schedules. Before you get caught up in the chaos, set aside time every day to stop and reflect. Use this time to think about what you’re grateful for (consider starting a gratitude journal for this) and focus on your life’s positive aspects.

Before you get caught up in the chaos, set aside time every day to stop and reflect. Use this time to think about what you’re grateful for.

This gratitude time can be five minutes or 60 minutes — do what’s best for you. Try setting aside time for reflections just before bed, with a cup of coffee in the morning or during a home yoga session.

Reach out when you need help

If you’re still feeling overwhelmed after trying these tactics, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Ask your partner or kids to chip in with some of your to-do list tasks, or schedule a call with a close friend to talk through how you’re feeling.

Behavioral health experts are also standing by if you need support. There’s no shame in asking for help. In fact, more people than ever are seeking behavioral health support and counseling. And with most providers offering telehealth services today, you can talk to a professional without leaving home.

As you dive into the holiday season, pay attention to how you’re feeling day-to-day. Don’t hesitate to stop, breathe and step away for a few moments to take time for yourself. And remember that most people are facing added stress and anxiety this year, so it’s important we give everyone — including ourselves — a bit of grace and tolerance.

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Find a doctor

If you’re struggling with your mental health this holiday season, consider talking to a professional. They will be able to help you find healthy ways to cope with stress, anxiety and depression. If you need to find a compassionate counselor, you can use our provider directory or search for one in your area.

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How will you plan to manage your #holidaystress this year? Share your tips for coping with holidays during the #COVID19 pandemic. @providence #mentalhealth

Resources:

Overcoming mask anxiety

Tips for better social health — even during a pandemic

Prioritize safety this holiday season: Wear your mask

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional’s instructions.

About the Author

The Providence Women's Health team is committed to providing useful and actionable insights, tips and advice to ensure women of all types can live their healthiest lives.

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