Keeping the Happy in Your Holiday: Making the Most of this Year's Challenging Season

December 9, 2020

By: Beth Agen, MBA, CPHRM, CPPS
Senior Director of Regulatory Affairs | UPHS – Portage

As we approach the year-end holiday season, many people will recall fond memories brought on by sounds, smells, and places. With its various joyful and time-honored traditions, the holiday season is a cherished time of the year for many. Unfortunately, it can also be a stressful and emotionally trying time, especially for those juggling numerous obligations or coping with the loss of a loved one.

The year 2020 brought many painful challenges and changes around the globe. Thousands have lost family and friends, and even more have lost jobs, income, and homes. We have lost our ability to move freely, socialize widely, and connect with those dear to us. And as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in our community and across the country, we are finding ourselves rethinking how we celebrate this year, which could create new challenges and potentially stressful situations.

Keeping stress at bay is an essential part of maintaining good mental and physical health and can help keep our immune system running as it should – an especially important goal right now. The good news is that you can adopt some simple seasonal strategies to minimize stress and help keep the happy in your holiday.

Creating New Traditions
The ongoing pandemic means that reconnecting and spending time with family, friends, and loved ones at holiday gatherings can be a risky venture and potentially spread COVID-19 in our community. It is frustrating to have holiday traditions thwarted this year, but instead of focusing on what we aren’t able to do, consider creating a few new traditions. How about a movie night with family or roommates with whom you are currently “quarantining”? Watch a favorite holiday film, with individual servings of homemade popcorn and special holiday pajamas? How about a secret gift exchange through the mail and open them together virtually on Zoom? New traditions can help minimize the disappointment over canceled events, and you might even discover a new annual tradition to keep for future holidays.

Embracing the Pace
This year’s holiday calendar will look more open than usual, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In the past, you may have worried over conflicting schedule obligations and stressed about the frantic pace of the season. This year, many of us have seen our social calendars slow down considerably to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, and that trend is set to continue during the holidays. Embrace the slower pace of December this year, and savor the time and company of those within your household. Maybe this is the year to have the FaceTime with old friends you’ve meant to connect with; or to finally have that quiet Christmas at home you’ve wanted, without time-consuming travel and last-minute errands.

Reaching Out
Whether you’re struggling with a less social holiday season or facing your first holiday without a friend or loved one, this can be a difficult time. It’s important to remember that you are not alone, and it is more than okay to talk about what you’re going through. You should do things to acknowledge your feelings aloud to yourself or someone else, do not try to stuff them down, and put on a perfect, well-kept façade. Take care of yourself, do not make promises that will stress you out. Reach out to family and friends, even if you cannot see each other in person. If you’re struggling and need to speak to a counselor or other behavioral health provider, don’t hesitate to do so. Stay connected.

The holiday season will certainly look different for us this year. Still, these strategies allow us to minimize stress and anxiety around this year’s challenges and can help us remember to find the peace and joy still awaiting us during this special time of year.

Those who think they may need greater assistance in managing their feelings can call 800.562.7622 or 906.482.HELP, text 906.35NEEDS (906.356.3337), or chat with the Dial Help Support & Outreach Center. If you fear that a loved one may commit harm to him or herself, do not hesitate to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).