Navigating a Socially Distanced Holiday Season

The Christmas holidays is extremely stressful for people who are already struggling with isolation due to COVID. With more and more Ontario regions going back on lockdown right before Dec 25, it's going to be a difficult few weeks. Many families will not be gathering traditionally for Christmas dinner for the first time in YEARS. 

Licensed Clinical Psychotherapist Erin Wiley, MA, LPC, LPCC has sent me some tips to help people navigate a pandemic holiday season. I hope this helps anyone who is stressing and needs some advice about the stress of this season .

1. Lack of “excessive” funds 
 Remember that the best memories are created, not bought. Spending time together with our kids doing fun wintertime activities, celebrating the holidays with old and new traditions, cooking and baking together – these are the things that children will remember for years to come. In my own family I explained to my sons that Mom and Dad had to still pay for the gifts: that we gave money to Santa and he picked out the things they received. Let them know they can't have everything on their list. It's so much healthier for our kids to not get everything they've ever wanted. Do what you can, and know that whatever you can do will be enough. 

2. Not seeing family 
Do your best to create a new holiday tradition through gathering online as a family. Play some virtual games together, or gather to unwrap gifts you've sent ahead of time in the mail. Explain to kids the importance of staying apart to keep family members from getting sick 

3. Not looking their best/taking time for themselves 
When you can find a free minute for self-care, do something nice for yourself. Sometimes that is as simple as using some dry shampoo and brushing your hair. Spraying on a spritz of perfume or body spray, dry brushing your skin before a quick shower, trying a new body lotion, lighting a candle. Self-care doesn't have to be complicated or take a lot of time. Self-care can also be taking the time to prioritize your health by getting to bed at little earlier than usual, choosing healthy food instead of resorting to junk food, or parking far away from your destination so you can get in extra steps. 

4. Taking on more workload this season while having kids 
Everyone is stressed to their near- breaking point right now. The mantra I keep repeating and suggesting to my therapy patients is "I am doing the best I can do right now". Given the circumstances with the pandemic, and fatigue and homeschooling, and working from home, we are all just trying to get by right now. And that's got to be ok. We can only do so much, so we need to practice giving ourselves grace for not being superhuman. We need to lower our standards to realistic levels- especially at the holidays and even more so during a pandemic. 
5. Dealing with a partner that is stressed this season as well 
Validating the emotions expressed by people around us is the fastest and best way to help them know they are not in it alone. Beside validation, simple gestures can be highly effective at reminding our partners that we care for them. A note on the bathroom mirror, a text sent during the day while apart, offering to take over a chore that is usually theirs – these are all small, simple ways to let your special someone know that you care, and to hopefully lower their stress level.

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