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COVID Holiday Stress: What You Can Do About It

Posted by Kelsey Shaw



I’ve had several patients open up about their anxiety being magnified with COVID worries, as well as how they will approach the holidays. 

To help get more insight, I had the pleasure of speaking with Registered Psychologist Cherise Gardipee, out of Daring Greatly Psychological Services.

She offered some great advice and understanding into several common concerns I hear about from patients. I’m sure we can all relate with the challenges she speaks to.

Here’s what she shared:

How do you suggest we manage our anxiety as the holidays approach?

With the holiday season quickly approaching, and the ongoing uncertainty of COVID, there continues to be an increase in worries and anxiety.

Normally, we have ongoing outlets to help relieve our anxiety and tension, or connect with friends and family to vent and distance ourselves from our distress even for a little while. With our current limitations, it is important not to become overwhelmed with the things that may not be the same this holiday season.

Create new traditions

Instead, let’s focus on what is the same, and what new traditions can be created. We may not be able to have all of our family together this year in person, but we can create new ways of connecting with video calls, or retriction-permitting winter activities that allow for safe distancing.

We can also remember to always give ourselves permission to be sad, or angry or frustrated with the world not allowing for our old ways. 

Focus on small obtainable tasks

When focusing on anxiety specifically, it can present itself in a multitude of ways. Some individuals experience an increase of irrational thoughts or fears, a sense of panic, a need for control, striving for perfectionism, and an increase of worries.

These feelings can increase due to the holidays, lack of connection due to COVID and current uncertainty within our economy and health sector. 

During these times it is important to take pause, and reflect inwards to find a sense of stability and calm. We can often resort to black and white thinking, or become over-saturated in emotion, which can be unhelpful at times. Ultimately, we would like a balance of both, connecting both logic and emotion together without becoming overwhelmed, and allowing for a decrease in distress and tension.

When feeling overwhelmed or anxious it’s important to focus on small obtainable tasks, such as taking a shower, eating well, and staying hydrated. Find one task to complete throughout the day, that can include cleaning one area or space in your home. Often focusing on cleaning a space or decluttering an area can help with creating a sense of accomplishment and provide feelings of being in control. 

Connect with others

Respecting the new restrictions, reach out to others outside of your home through phone calls, video calls, or a meet-up with others in the community. This will help you feel connected. 

Say hello to your neighbour, even if you’ve never spoken before. We are all currently in the same isolated new normal, and those that may look like they are doing well with the adjustment may be struggling internally.

Exercise and humour boost endorphins

Exercise to get your heart rate up, flooding your body and mind with endorphins is a great mood booster. 

Find ways to do things you want to do, that bring you joy.

Last but not least have a good laugh, and find humour where you can. 

How do you recommend we stay safely connected, despite COVID restrictions?

With our new normal, we have limited access to friends, family and external supports or self care rituals that we may have enjoyed in the past. Thankfully there are still ways for us to interact with those who are a source of support to us.

Online platforms

It is easier than ever to utilize a virtual format to connect with those we love. There are many different virtual options such as FaceTime, Google Meet, Zoom and even party platforms such as hangouts where one can play games while video chatting with friends or family. 

Connect with nature

We are still able to get outside and enjoy the weather. We can go for a drive, get out for a walk, snowshoe or cross-country ski. These are wonderful options that allow for us to connect with nature, and increase our dopamine and serotonin levels leading to feelings of happiness. 

What are some tools or resources for when we feel overwhelmed with anxiety?

Music and dance

Try to be more mindfully present, listen to music that you connect with, it can be music that fuels your energy, or calms you. It’s never too late to break out in dance, even if it’s a dance party for one!

Practice mindfulness and focus on direct sensations

Focus on your surroundings: what do you see, what do you feel, what do you hear?

Lastly connect with something that brings you a sense of grounding and purpose, this can be a spiritual belief, or connecting with nature.

Other community resources

If your feelings are leading to a sense of hopelessness, or lack of motivation there are community resources that are easy to engage with that can provide mental health support:

The Mental Health Foundation

Mental Health Copilots

Gratitude to Cherise Gardipee, Registered Psychologist for her invaluable insight and advice on how we can all support ourselves with the anxiety and stress of the holidays, amplified by COVID this year. We hope these tips and resources are helpful to you!

For more information on how we can support you with the stress, please book in for a free 15-minute phone consultation.

Image: www.giselledekel.com IG @giselle_dekel

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