Tips on how to manage holiday stress and anxiety during COVID-19

With the coronavirus pandemic, psychologists say they're expecting to see an even bigger spike in people seeking help with their mental health.
During this time of year, mental health experts usually see a sharp increase in people seeking help. But now, with the coronavirus pandemic, psychologists say they're expecting to see an even bigger spike.

That's because many are facing a new set of holiday struggles along with fatigue and stress.

We're all used to expecting a hectic holiday schedule including cooking, cleaning, preparing and shopping. But dealing with all the other daily pandemic-related issues can trigger much more heightened stress levels.

Navigating family plans or even in many cases - having no plans - can be a minefield.

Psychologist Susan Albers is with the Cleveland Clinic.

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"We're seeing a lot of conflict and tension between family members about how to handle the upcoming holidays," she said. "What's really important is for families to clearly communicate ahead of time, way ahead of holidays, what kind of expectations they have. Their limits, their boundaries and what they need to feel safe."

Dr. Albers says a lot of her patients have expressed feelings of guilt about skipping family dinners or get-togethers this year.

But she says there's nothing wrong with wanting to protect your personal health.

The same goes for those hosting a family gathering: don't be afraid to set boundaries for guests.
If you want them to wear a mask, politely let them know it's for everyone's safety.

"We create a lot of scenarios in our minds about how the holidays are going to play out and sometimes we create the worst case scenarios. Remind yourself that they are possible but not probable, and remind yourself about the positive things that holidays can bring you," Albers said.

Experts say it can be helpful to look at what we do have, instead of focusing on what we don't. So instead of stressing that things might not be perfect, focus on well-being, relaxing, family and friends.

And even though there is a lot going on around us, look for any upsides that can help re-frame your perspective.

Albers says in our current situation, remind yourself that you can skip some of the usual responsibilities and obligations - like having to host a big party or cook a big Thanksgiving dinner. Slow down, and simplify what you can.

And she adds don't forget a very important part of reducing stress and anxiety - taking care of yourself! That could be the most important gift you give.

The video above is from a previous report.
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