Managing the Holidays in the Era of COVID 19

It’s November, and with that comes the onset of holiday season anxiety.

From interacting with family that we rarely see, to travel stress, this season can be challenging. Add in financial difficulty, mixed with a global pandemic, and we are all in brand new territory. Navigating COVID 19 has been challenging for a variety of reasons and the restrictions have gone on for much longer than most of us anticipated. We have navigated tremendous changes over the past 8 months, and, as the holidays approach, these changes will likely continue.

COVID 19 has already thrown a wrench in a lot of our holiday plans. Our gatherings are likely to be smaller, and maybe more local. We may drive when we would normally have flown, or we may spend the holidays with only those in our individual households.

So what can we  do with the cards we have been dealt? How do we manage the anger, disappointment, and anxiety of unexpected changes, new restrictions, and having to create new holiday traditions?

Here are some tips to help navigate this upcoming holiday season:

  1. Start adjusting your expectations early– We will likely not be able to have the large family gatherings to which we might be accustomed from previous years. Flying to see family may be difficult or impossible in order to avoid transmission of COVID 19. Large gatherings in general are not encouraged or recommended by the CDC. Instead, we can make plans now to see family locally, in smaller groups, or in a socially distanced manner. Try scheduling zoom meetings with extended family for the holidays, or even eating dinner together virtually. Order and send gifts early so you can open them together on Facetime. If you have an understanding of potential changes early on, the changes will be easier to manage as they happen.
  2. Set boundaries– First, assess what your comfort level is with family gatherings. If your family wants to have a 30 person Thanksgiving dinner, and you are uncomfortable with the idea, that is ok. If you do travel to see family and you want to wear a mask while around them, that is also ok. Remember that your feelings are important. Even if you experience resistance, that does not mean you have to compromise your own feelings of safety or comfort. Some people may express hurt or anger at these boundaries. It’s ok if others express anger at your decision. That does not inherently mean it’s an incorrect decision for you. 

Emotionally prepare yourself

  1. Make the holidays special– The holidays can be special, even if you’re celebrating them with just the people in your household. Do what makes the day feel exciting. If this means cooking a special meal just for you, decorating, or putting on your holiday pajamas, just do it. Maintaining a feeling of festivity can help to temper the disappointment of not being able to see loved ones. 
  2. Plan for last minute changes– Even when we plan ahead, plans can go awry. This is especially true right now. A positive COVID 19 test, knowledge of others having traveled, or new restrictions by local government can create new hurdles. Make sure to plan for last minute changes. Emotionally prepare yourself for having to cancel plans and celebrate the holidays virtually. The more prepared you are, the easier the changes will be to navigate. 
  3. Remember that this is temporary– We will not be living through a pandemic forever. The holidays may look a little different this year, but there will come a time when we can celebrate more like we have in years past. When in doubt, consult local public health guidelines for their suggestions on family gatherings during COVID 19. 
  4. Give yourself time to grieve– We are all grieving the loss of our normal lives. This takes time and validation. Your feelings may crop up in ways you don’t expect- anger, anxiety, sadness- these are all normal reactions to grief. Talk to friends and family about how you are feeling, increase self-care, and talk to a professional if need be. We are here to help!

Remember, we are here for you during this challenging time.

If you are experiencing stress and anxiety about the holiday season, COVID 19, or anything else happening in your life, schedule an appointment to talk to someone.  Call us today at 217-203-2008 or contact us via email

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20047544

https://abc7news.com/mental-health-covid-coronavirus-holidays-holiday-stress/7369543/

https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-cope-with-holiday-family-gatherings-and-the-coronavirus-pandemic/