By SMH Behavioral Health Services Manager Jill Hazzard, LMHC
The holidays can be magical, but they can also be stressful. And the 2020 holiday season brings the added stressors of COVID-19 — health concerns, social distancing, cancelled plans and for many, financial worries.
Give yourself the gift of less stress this year with these easy steps.
Know what is in your control and what is not. Focus on the things you can control.
Take time over the holiday season to step back from the news, stop mindlessly scrolling social media and focus on being present in the world around you.
Understand that holiday traditions may look different this season. It’s important to be realistic in terms of your plans and expectations. Set the merry-making bar lower this year.
Prioritize your health and safety — without the guilt. Give yourself and your family permission to make the difficult decision to avoid crowds, forgo holiday parties and events, and avoid traveling to be with loved ones.
While the typical holiday season’s hustle and bustle may not be in reach, you can find new, fun traditions.
Mix it up, but keep it simple. Ask each family member or loved one to come up with an idea for a new tradition. You may be surprised how much fun decorating cookies (or even the family dog) might be when you don’t have 5 other things to attend to.
Try a New Recipe – Without the pressure to please guests’ picky palates, experiment with your holiday feast menu! Sift through old recipe books or search online for something new, and give in to the fun of culinary exploration.
Unlock Your Creativity – Whether it be writing, drawing, sculpting, singing, woodworking or baking, take some time to indulge your creativity and see what comes out!
Read a Book – Grab the latest release by your favorite author or dust off that classic you’ve been meaning to read for ages, and curl up with a warm drink and a soft blanket. For young ones, try reading aloud together to share in the adventure.
Tackle Some Home Improvement – Have a project you never got around to? Tackle those home improvement projects you've been putting off, and start the new year a step ahead and feeling of accomplishment.
COVID-19 has thrown daily routines out the window — whether you’re working from home, helping a remote student learn or simply unable to visit the gym or your favorite park. And that goes double for the 2020 holidays.
Without in-person meetings, events or get-togethers to get to, it can be all too tempting to just sleep in, skip the shower, eat ice cream for breakfast and binge-watch TV on the sofa all day. But it’s important that we stick to healthy habits — for both physical and mental wellness.
Shower regularly, and maintain a good sleep pattern. Stay physically active, and mentally engaged. Eat a balanced diet, drink lots of water and avoid excessive alcohol, drug or tobacco use. You might be surprised at how good it feels to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Use this time to focus on creating good habits: “Self-care” is about taking care of yourself and, in doing so, asserting your own worth and value.
Feeling nostalgic, melancholy or lonely is very common during the holidays. Realize that the holiday blues are normal, and reach out to loved ones, coworkers and online connections for support.
Contact with others is a good distraction, and makes us feel less isolated. Offer to volunteer (safely), help out a neighbor (safely) or foster a pet.
Even though we can’t physically be with all our loved ones, technology has made it easy to connect in other ways, like video chats and conference calls. They may not be there in person, but they will still be part of the festivities.
Stay in contact with them, rather than isolate.
Reach Out & Phone Someone – Coordinate a precise time and date to check in with family and friends during the holidays, to be sure that no one gets left out and avoid disappointment.
Social Distance Stroll – Meet up with family and friends at an outdoor location; mask up, and go for a socially distant stroll. Share good conversation and a few laughs. And while hugs and high-fives may be out of the question, simply being together — even 6 feet apart — can do wonders.
Watch a Holiday Movie Together Virtually – Pick out a movie as a group and everyone watch it on their own device, wherever they are. Put the call on speakerphone, and share in the laughter. (Bonus: You can mute that chatty-Patty who always talks through the movie!)
Write a Letter – It’s not as quick as email, but it’s hard to beat the excitement of receiving a surprise handwritten letter from a friend in your mailbox. So, pass it on! The letter could be nothing more than a quick note and a doodle, but you may be surprised at the reaction you’ll get.
If at any point you feel the need to talk to someone about your anxiety or fear or depression, reach out to family, friends or a professional. There are reputable resources available for anybody in need of a sympathetic ear or helping hand, and they’re only a phone call away.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish.
As manager of Sarasota Memorial’s Behavioral Health Services, Jill Hazzard, LMHC, helps ensure that our community’s mental health needs are met. She also engages in public outreach and education on behalf of SMH, including coordinating with local nonprofits and meeting with local school administrators, faculty and parents to discuss mental health awareness in the classroom.