As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, many people are adjusting their holiday traditions to keep themselves and their loved ones safe, and are now experiencing a different type of stress, replacing the hustle and bustle of having too much to do during the holiday season with uncertainty, isolation and the loss of routine and tradition. The "loss" of the holiday season can plunge some people into depression and cause extra stress on top of a very anxiety-inducing year.
According to research studies, the holiday season has always seen a spike in stress, depression, and anxiety. The global pandemic adds a considerable load to the already elevated level of responsibilities that arise during the holiday season. Issues related to travel safety, family members’ health risk profiles, and precautions (or lack thereof) taken by family members can increase stress levels to greater than in the past.
Stress has direct effects on mood. Early initial symptoms of lowered mood can include irritability, sleep disruption, and cognitive changes, such as impaired concentration. However, the indirect effects of stress are often what causes depression to take hold. Some examples could include:
Skipping healthy coping strategies and self-care routines
Bigger problems resulting from being in a low or bad mood (i.e. being “stressed out” leads to blowing up at someone, resulting in a fight)
Disrupting relationships, as the stressed-out person isn’t as emotionally available
Engaging in unhealthy behaviors to cope
Loss of routines (routines help us with the ability to function)
It is possible to manage some of those symptoms and have a happier, healthier holiday by using the right strategies and tools to lower your stress and stave off depression.
Acknowledge your feelings, and don’t force them. Realize that it's normal to feel whatever you feel, whether it’s joy, boredom, relief, sadness, grief, or just blah. Meet yourself where you are. Those feelings are where you are right now, and ignoring them or “faking it till you make it” will only cause them to resurface later.
If you feel lonely or isolated, search for community, religious, or other social events and communities. One of the incredible things that have come out of the pandemic are the opportunities to connect remotely. We are all neighbors now! There are many online support groups, social media sites, and virtual events that can offer support and companionship.
There’s a saying that tends to ring true - “I can’t think about me and you at the same time.” Reach out to others who may be feeling isolated, stressed, or depressed with a text, a call or a video chat just to say hello and ask them how they’re doing. Having the opportunity to be there for someone else is an incredible mood-lifter!
Volunteering your time or doing something to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships. For example, consider dropping off a meal and dessert at a friend's home during the holidays.
The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children or other relatives can't come to your home, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos. Or meet virtually on a video call. Even though your holiday plans may look different this year, you can find ways to celebrate together.
Remember that you are an expert at changing! You’ve been doing it your whole life without even noticing. At one point in your life you didn’t know how to walk, and look at you now! This holiday season may require some changes, and that is more than okay. You can always change again later on.
Do your best to be understanding if others get upset or distressed. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
Stick to a budget. Before you do your gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.
Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, connecting with friends and other activities. Having a plan, even if you adjust it as you go, will help to take the pressure off and reduce your stress.
Say no when you need to. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity. We can only do so much, and when stress is high, we can make taking care of ourselves a priority.
Don't abandon healthy habits. Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Enjoy every bite, and don’t let yourself overindulge when it will add to your stress and guilt.
Be aware of how the information culture can produce undue stress, and adjust the time you spend reading news and social media as you see fit.
Take a breather. Take a break by yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm. Take a walk, listen to a hypnosis program, do some yoga or meditation, or just be for a minute.
Seek professional help if you need it. If you are having trouble managing stress, depression or anxiety, talk to a professional. They will be able to help you with tools to feel better and more in control of your emotions.
Stress is created by your reaction to and anticipation of what your mind believes will happen next. Hypnosis helps your mind to perceive situations differently, which will reduce stress and make you feel better, healthier, and happier.
Hypnosis is a proven and reliable method for eliminating stress and anxiety. I use hypnosis to teach my clients how to reduce their stress, tension, and anxiety. I also teach my clients how to use self hypnosis so that they are able to keep their stress levels low.
Regardless of what one’s triggers are, it is the mind that tells the body how it will respond to those triggers. If the mind interprets a situation as being stressful, it will tell the body to react accordingly. Hypnosis reprograms the way the mind responds to stressful situations, reframing the situation and altering the subsequent reaction.
Don't let the holidays become something you dread. You can take steps to better manage and prevent the stress and depression that can amplify during the holidays. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. With a little planning and and the right tools, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.∎
“Deep Stress Release” custom audio hypnosis program:
Guide to Abdominal Breathing for Anxiety and Stress Relief:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Karen Gray is a Certified Professional Hypnotist, a Certified Hypnosis Instructor, a Registered Nurse, and the Director of Green Mountain Hypnosis. For more information on how you can use hypnosis to change your life,