COVID Anxiety

Coping with Stress, Fear, and Worry During the Holidays

It’s a frightening time. We’re in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, with many places at least partially shut down, others struggling to reopen safely. Some of us are in areas where the coronavirus infection rates are getting worse. Others are bracing for what may come next. And all of us are watching the headlines and wondering, “When is this going to end?”

Holidays are a special time to catch up, honor traditions and enjoy time with friends and family. While there is no single right way to celebrate this year, there are some ways that can help you cope with anxiety and get the support you need.

Stay informed—but don’t obsessively check the news

It’s vital to stay informed, particularly about what’s happening in your community, so you can follow advised safety precautions and do your part to slow the spread of coronavirus. But there’s a lot of misinformation going around, as well as sensationalistic coverage that only feeds into fear. It’s important to be discerning about what you read and watch.

Follow local guidance

If you’re worried about whether it’s safe to attend or host a holiday gathering, it’s a good idea to find out the latest COVID-19 guidelines in your state. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has guidelines and advice for staying safe at holiday celebrations.

Remaining informed about your community’s recommendations and aware of local COVID-19 outbreaks can help you make decisions that keep you and your family safe.

Make sure you’re on the same page as your loved ones

Are you planning to celebrate outside or inside? Outdoor gatherings are lower risk for spreading infection but may not be possible in the winter, depending on where you live. If indoors, could you open the windows or doors to increase ventilation?

Is everyone comfortable wearing a mask and physically distancing? It’s best to wear a mask and stay six feet apart from people who are not in your household so it’s worth considering if you have enough space to do so safely.

Do your loved ones live nearby, or would travel be required? Celebrating the holidays with only the people you live with is lower risk, whereas traveling or flying on a plane is higher risk. If you’re hosting, you might consider asking people if it’s possible to strictly avoid contact with others 14 days before the gathering. If you are attending someone else’s party, speak with the members of your household to figure out what everyone is most comfortable with.

Would attendees be open to getting tested for COVID-19 before the gathering? Depending on the availability of testing in your area, this could be one option to lower the risk. Remember, it’s also important that loved ones stay home if they are feeling sick or at higher risk for severe illness. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others.

Could you get creative with how you spend your time together? Perhaps you can celebrate virtually if you don’t feel comfortable having an in-person meal. Or maybe each household eats separately and then meets up after for a physically distant walk. If you are dining together, you could encourage everyone to bring food for just the members of their household.

How can you honor traditions that are important to you? While some traditions may look a little different this year, you might be able to continue others safely. Consider meaningful ways you can respect your traditions — perhaps simplifying can help you focus on the meaning of the holidays. Trying a new tradition may also help the holidays feel special this year.

Focus on the things you can control

We’re in a time of massive upheaval. There are so many things outside of our control, including how long the pandemic lasts, how other people behave, and what’s going to happen in our communities. That’s a tough thing to accept, and so many of us respond by endlessly searching the Internet for answers and thinking over all the different scenarios that might happen. But as long as we’re focusing on questions with unknowable answers and circumstances outside of our personal control, this strategy will get us nowhere—aside from feeling drained, anxious, and overwhelmed.

When you feel yourself getting caught up in fear of what might happen, try to shift your focus to things you can control. For example, you can’t control how severe the coronavirus outbreak is in your city or town, but you can take steps to reduce your own personal risk (and the risk you’ll unknowingly spread it to others).

Take care of yourself

It’s important to keep your stress in check and maintain healthy habits. Make sure you’re eating a balanced diet of whole grains, fruits and vegetables; getting at least seven hours of sleep per night; and exercising and/or walking daily. You may also find writing down your thoughts or worries to be helpful for coping with holiday stress.

Help others (it will make you feel better)

It’s no coincidence that those who focus on others in need and support their communities, especially during times of crises, tend to be happier and healthier than those who act selfishly. Helping others not only makes a difference to your community—and even to the wider world at this time—it can also support your own mental health and well-being. Much of the anguish accompanying this pandemic stems from feeling powerless. Doing kind and helpful acts for others can help you regain a sense of control over your life—as well as adding meaning and purpose.

Talk to a therapist for support

This year isn’t easy! If you find yourself feeling nervous, worried or just need to talk something through, therapists and psychologists are here to listen. Schedule a visit on Family First Counseling Center Online today to get support and guidance from home.