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  • Writer's pictureDena Lampert

Reducing holiday stress (or maybe even relaxing) during a pandemic

There is no mistake that this year has brought a lot of anxiety, sadness, confusion, and stress to our lives. For the past 9 months (and what feels like an eternity) the world has been in a state of uncertainty due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Our lives were greatly impacted and changed in many ways we could never have expected, all in what feels like a matter of seconds. Long gone are the days when we could travel or go to the store without having to double-check that we have our mask and sanitizer, and have taken the proper precautions to protect ourselves and the ones we love.

As the holiday season is upon us, the question arises as to how we can think differently about holiday celebrations. Traditional holiday gatherings will put us at risk of getting sick or making others sick. I know you’ve heard this statement a thousand times, but for now, it remains true. Can we come up with creative ideas that will allow us to enjoy this time and reduce the added stress that the pandemic has caused?

Does it seem that things are especially confusing this time around? In March 2020, Covid cases were rising exponentially and we were told to stay home and stay socially distanced from others—and we listened. Today, we are in a similar situation with rising covid cases, but we are receiving mixed messages from the media. Health care systems are overwhelmed, but airplanes are disinfected and it’s safe to travel? We’re being told to keep our celebrations small with only immediate family, but then also being shown recipes for 15lb turkeys for your family celebration? It is no wonder we are stressed and overwhelmed—how are we supposed to know what is the right thing to do?

I find myself asking if there is really a way to celebrate a stress-free holiday season? Is it even possible to relax during the holidays this year? How am I supposed to communicate that declining a holiday party invitation is for safety reasons and not because I don’t want to attend?

It’s difficult but necessary to accept that we are going to have to celebrate the holidays a little differently this year. It’s difficult to consider alternative plans because none seem as fun or satisfying as a traditional family event. How can you change your thinking to find enjoyment with a small, quiet holiday? It’s just for this year. Next year we will have a vastly different conversation. Think about what you can do to make this holiday season special, even if it will be a little different and likely less fun than what you imagine for the season.

Here are some alternative activities to do with your family this holiday season.

  • Cookie decorating as a family

  • Have a movie night

  • Cook dinner together

  • Create your own version of family feud

  • Have a virtual family dinner

  • Go for a walk with your immediate family and admire the beauty of nature

  • Safely prepare meals and deliver them to family in a socially distanced way (for example, leave them on the porch)

  • Have a family gratitude session where you all write down things you are grateful for, and then share them with each other

  • Make paper chain garlands

  • Have a virtual game night

In addition to our own stress, as parents, many of us are struggling to communicate these changes to our children who might not fully understand yet. Rest assured that you are not alone in this struggle. My number one suggestion is to stay calm when explaining to your children that things need to be different this year. Additionally, try to display a positive attitude yourself with regard to the new changes. Your children will often mimic your emotional state.

Declining a holiday party is another highly talked about stress factor this year. It’s not so easy this year to show up for a few minutes then sneak out the backdoor. There are many other important factors to consider. The reality is that each of us has a different approach to the pandemic, with some being more relaxed, while others are more cautious. The important thing to remember is that regardless of our position, we should respect each other's opinions and choices this holiday.

However you decide to spend your holiday season, the most important goal is to relax and enjoy it. Find alternative activities to do with those you love and spend time together, whether in person or virtually. Do not let this pandemic win by making us physically sick or emotionally miserable. Follow the guidelines, accept the changes for this year, and find a way to relax and enjoy.


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