Coping with holiday stress

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While COVID-19 continues to be a factor in our lives, celebrating the holidays may look different this year. Try to prevent stress — and perhaps make things a little better — with these tips:

Acknowledge your feelings. Don’t try to force joy just because it’s the holiday season. If you can’t be with loved ones because of COVID-19, realize that it is normal to feel sadness and grief. And if you can express these feelings to a trusted loved one, all the better.

Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out virtual or socially-distanced events in your community. Pick up the phone and call an old friend. There are still others out there who want to offer you connection and support.

Rethink expectations. Be open to creating new traditions. For example, if you can’t have your usual holiday gathering, find a way to celebrate together virtually – have dinner “together,” exchange videos and photos, and stay connected.

Don’t abandon healthy habits. Remember that moderation is best. Overdoing it rarely helps anything, and makes us feel worse in the long run. Prioritize sleep and get at least a little exercise daily.

Learn your holiday triggers. Find out what provokes your holiday stress —These are experiences that remind us of holidays past and make us feel worse. If you can avoid these during the holidays, you may prevent stress; and if you can’t avoid them, at least you’ll be aware of what’s bringing you down.

Seek additional support. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, overwhelmed by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, or unable to face routine responsibilities. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. This can be more helpful than you might expect.

This article appeared in the November issue of MyClackCo, the semi-annual publication from Clackamas County.