2020 has been a challenging year and the holiday season often brings unwelcome guests- stress, depression, loneliness, and anxiety! Some of you might be wondering how to deal with the holiday blues while adjusting to the new realities that have accompanied 2020. We’ve adapted to working from home, home-schooling children, managing anxiety related to the pandemic, physically distancing, wearing masks, dealing with financial hardship due to unemployment, grieving the loss of loved ones due to the virus, and so much more.
The most common symptom of the holiday blues is a persistent or recurring feeling of sadness that begins during the holiday season. People might also experience anxiety, anger, and loneliness. And if you were hoping to spend time with loved ones to combat loneliness and other unpleasant feelings, the spread of the coronavirus likely will interfere with those plans. Let’s face it, holiday plans will look very different for most people this year.
I asked the fantastic group of therapists who work at my practice to share some tips on coping with the holiday blues during this unprecedented time. Here’s what they shared:
Regina Johnson, LPCMH
- Pace yourself. Do not take on more than you can handle.
- Try a new activity/hobby. You will get to know yourself better and creativity and brainpower will be stimulated.
- Enjoy the present moment. Present moment awareness has been found to improve one’s mood.
Tia Jones Medine, LCSW
- Set a budget. Finances are the number one factor when it comes to holiday stress. Set aside an affordable amount to purchases gifts. Try not to feel pressured into making expensive purchases that will hurt your finances.
- Volunteer- Set aside some time to volunteer your time and services at a local organization. Helping others can create a positive feeling within.
Gabrielle Mensah, LCSW
- Stay Positive. Positive affirmations are a good way to start your day in a positive and uplifting way.
- Learn a new skill. Learning a new skill is a good way to pass the time when feeling bored or lonely.
Teka Pope, MSW
- Engage in non-traditional activities. During these challenging times, we have to be non-traditional to increase our joy because the virus is making things non-traditional. For example, embrace engaging in virtual get-togethers with family and friends.
- Drink more water. This helps to keep you hydrated and energized. Also, water has been shown to have natural calming properties.
Vartina Victor, LMSW
- Sleep and Exercise. Research has shown that lack of sleep has been linked to depression. Additionally, engaging in a daily exercise routine for 30 minutes or more has been found to improve one’s mood.
- Listen to Music and Relax. Music is an expressive art that can elevate one’s mood and get into a state of relaxation. Different types of music are used for meditation and such music can help one to feel grounded and at peace.
In addition to these tips, I would also add the following:
- Distance yourself from the news and social media. Consuming too much news and social media is related to an increase in depression and anxiety. Many people have become addicted to daily covid-19 updates. That’s fine but everything in moderation.
- Connect with others. We are social beings and we make our brains happy when we connect with others. Even if you can’t see loved ones in person, stay connected via phone and video-conferencing. I, personally, am becoming quite fond of virtual get-togethers.
- Put pen to paper and journal: Spend a few minutes each day putting your thoughts and feelings on paper. This will help to clear your mind.
- Pray: Prayer does not have to have a religious connotation. Through traditional prayer, mantras, or songs, you can ask for the strength to bear the pain of the present moment. If you are religious, turning things over to God or a higher being can minimize your emotional distress.
- Find the good during challenging times. Remember that out of everything bad comes something good. What are the good things that you can identify during challenging times? Sonya Renee Taylor – author, poet, and activist-reminds us that this pandemic has given us an opportunity to “stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.” What is the new garment that you’ve been stitching as a result of this pandemic?
The holiday blues are possible to manage with some of these tips. Comment below and let me know how you cope with the holiday blues. Also, please keep in mind that the holiday blues are not to be confused with a true depressive or anxiety disorder. A healthcare professional can help you to determine if you are experiencing the holiday blues or something more chronic. Also, if you experience emotional distress that’s beyond your capacity to cope, you can call the national suicide prevention hotline to reach a trained crisis counselor: 1-800-273-8255.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. Have a great day on purpose!