stressed woman with christmas tree during holidays

High-Strung for the Holidays

6 Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress During Covid-19

Has anyone noticed how different the holidays feel this year?  On top of our normal stresses from being around family, finals, finding the perfect gifts, making the perfect menu, end of year finances, end of year reflections evaluations….we now have changes that were never expected plus the extra stresses of COVID and its implication on our traditions. I have been looking at ways I can help those around me (and myself!) with all these changes and here are a few suggestions to reduce I have been giving to help reduce holiday stress during covid-19.

woman deep breathing to reduce stress during the holidays

Find your safe space

… no matter where you will be.  Whether you are “going” home or staying put, make sure you identify a place where you can be alone for a few minutes. Take a break from the energy of those around you (even if it’s just the bathroom!!).  For those who aren’t able to identify a physical space then creating a safe and calming space in your mind using your imagination! 

Make a distress tolerance kit

… to put in your bag or in your safe place to help you cope with the distress of the holidays. This could include things that help you calm down or trigger positive memories using your 5 senses (ex: ice pack, lotion, essential oils, fidget toy, music, book, pictures)

Schedule time for yourself

… throughout the holidays.  This can be time for meditation, exercising, talking with a friend, having your therapy session, baking for the family (on your own), making sure you are eating a balanced diet. 

Create mutually agreed upon topics

… that will be off limits for the holidays. Examples might be politics, COVID predictions, or specific hot button issues in your relationship past (ie previous arguments or rifts in the relationship).  Families and close friends are known to be able to push our buttons because they know us so well!! Being able to explore what “buttons” shouldn’t be pushed, could help keep things less triggering.  This will help keep an already stressful situation from becoming overwhelmingly charged. 

Continue with as many traditions possible

… while taking into consideration safety issues. Having some things that are familiar to you will help ground you during the unfamiliar situations we find ourselves in.  This could be as simple as making your favorite side dish for the holiday or playing the same songs you usually do.  

Know where your boundaries are…

… around safety issues before being pulled into the group mentality and not wanting to separate from the majority.  If you know how you feel about things (ex: going to stores, having people in the house who don’t live there) then you will be able to explain your position and advocate for yourself.  You do not need to wait for others to explain their limits. Instead you are able to set your own safety limits and others can plan around them!

Will these suggestions prevent all stress and uncomfortable situations……

NOPE! But hopefully it will help you handle when those emotions become overwhelming and help ground you throughout the holiday season. By focusing on addressing our vulnerabilities in advance, it can help us be more stable when dealing with stressful situations.  Vulnerabilities are the things in our life that cause us to be more susceptible to responding in a way that we regret later.

The goal this season is simply to reduce our vulnerabilities -the only thing in our control- so that we can have success during inevitable stress during the holidays!

About the Author

Annie Bertran

Annie Bertran, LCSW-C is a licensed certified social worker-clinical and Therapist at Montgomery County Counseling Center in Rockville, MD. Annie obtained Bachelor’s degree in Social Work with a minor in Psychology from University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She then went on to earn her Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Annie has extensive training in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). She has worked across several settings over the past decade and has extensive experience with adolescents and young people transitioning into adulthood. She also provides clinical supervision for LMSWs and LGPCs.

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