As the rate of COVID-19 cases continues to rise and new stay-at-home orders begin to take effect in parts of the country, we are all preparing ourselves for what will be an unusual holiday season.
With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offering new guidance on how to celebrate the holidays safely, this could mean big changes to holiday traditions, such as no in-person shopping due to retail capacity cuts, more virtual holiday parties, and families not gathering together to avoid mixing households.
“Lots of people are overwhelmed this time of year, and the coronavirus pandemic has some dreading the holidays even more,” said psychologist Dr. Bernard Davidson at Augusta University’s Medical College of Georgia. “The coronavirus has changed our holiday plans and it is normal to feel upset. However, monitor your emotional well-being and check in with others to monitor their behavior as well.”
Davidson recommends the following tips to help ward off the holiday blues:
Be realistic about the holidays. Remember that the holidays are not about everything being perfect and you don’t have to feel completely happy all the time. Keep expectations modest and try not to compare yourself to others. Also, consider past holidays. Weren’t the most memorable moments the ones that were not perfectly scripted or posed? Try to relax and stay focused on the real meaning of the season — quality time with family and friends, as well as doing this safely.
Be charitable. Some of the greatest joys can be found in giving, Davidson said to look for ways to help those who are less fortunate. There are many charitable giving opportunities during the holidays, like volunteering at a food bank distribution center, making dinner for someone who cannot go out or adopting a family who could use a little financial support.
Don’t isolate yourself: Although we may not be able to celebrate the holidays in traditional ways, try not to isolate yourself. Reach out to small groups, including your loved ones and friends, and taking advantage of apps like Facetime or Zoom.
Prepare for stress. If you know you are prone to depression and anxiety, recognize that the stresses of the season, if left unchecked, could cause these feelings to escalate. Be sure to take appropriate measures to ease stress, such as setting aside “me” time for enjoying a relaxing bath or a soothing cup of tea, reading a book or another favorite pastime. It’s also important to maintain a regular exercise regimen, get plenty of rest and eat and drink in moderation. You will feel much better for it once the holidays are over.
Davidson also says maintaining a form of a routine and doing things like decorating your home or listening to seasonal music can help ease the holiday blues.
Davidson is a psychologist and an associate professor of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University. Davidson’s research interests focus on family psychotherapy. Click on his name to arrange an interview.