A Covid Christmas: Holiday Stress in the Time of a Pandemic

By Patty Davidson, Health & Wellness Ministry Coordinator

Unfortunately, stress caused or amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic is now permeating into our holiday plans. Here are five tips for a happier holiday season.

Practice Self-Care

If you develop healthy habits now, you will be better equipped to handle the increasing stress as Christmas approaches. Self-care is most simply defined as deliberately and consistently working towards your personal wellbeing. Some examples include performing breathing exercises, exploring nature, journaling, and meditating on Scripture. If you have not yet started a self-care practice, don’t wait any longer. Our Health & Wellness Ministry is happy to share more ideas and information to get you started.

Respect the Safety Concerns of Others

Even within families, everyone’s comfort levels about gatherings seem to differ. According to the CDC, the safest way to celebrate the holidays this year is by staying at home with members of the same household. Another very safe option is for all guests to self-quarantine for two weeks before gathering. Even if everyone agrees to self-quarantine before a gathering, understand that some individuals may still feel uncomfortable attending a multi-household event. For these individuals or for those who are at high medical risk, find ways to include them from afar, such as by utilizing technology to visit or by ding-dong-dashing a meal and/or gift at their home.

Leave Controversial Topics at the Door

If members of your family disagree on politics or the election outcomes, or if any other subject is a negative trigger for family members, make a pact to leave these topics out of the conversation during your holiday gatherings. You can have a fun code word to use (e.g. “Mistletoe!”) if the conversation starts down a negative path, to indicate when it’s time to change the subject.

Set Priorities and Plan Ahead

2020 has been anything but a normal year. Take the opportunity to step back and prioritize what is most important to you about the holiday season. Instead of working to maintain every tradition from years past, choose one or two meaningful activities to focus on this year. Then using these priorities as guidance, make to-do lists and look at your calendar to plan what will be done when. If you prepare a special meal, go through each recipe on your menu to create a shopping list for any needed ingredients. Consider what ingredients or dishes you can use as alternatives in case certain ingredients are not available.

Seek Help

If your feelings of stress are underpinned by ongoing sadness and feelings of hopelessness, don’t be afraid to seek professional guidance. Start by talking with your pastor. Additional resources include the American Psychology Association’s “Psychologist Locator” at https://locator.apa.org/ or a Christ-focused counseling organization, such as Samaritan Counseling.

For more tips on preventing or dealing with holiday stress, see Mayo Clinic and the American Psychological Association‘s articles.