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How to Overcome Holiday Stress and Depression During COVID-19

In 2020, we are constantly adapting to the new changes and pushing past the hurdles in front of us but this holiday season brings unwelcome guests — stress and depression. Some just aren’t in a celebratory mood, some don’t have money for holiday expenses, and some are barely managing to get through each day. Holiday stress has always been challenging but this year brings higher than usual stress levels due to COVID-19 and a lot of unrest within the world.

If the coronavirus disease is spreading in your community, you may be feeling additional stress. You may also feel stressed, sad, or anxious because your holiday plans look different during the COVID-19 pandemic. But with some practical tips, you can minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays and even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would.

Acknowledge your feelings. Realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief. It's okay to take time to express your feelings, especially if you are working remotely. Your career is important, but no deadline or meeting should take priority over your mental health. You can’t get anything done if you feel unmotivated and can’t focus on the task in front of you. You can't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.

Reach out to those you trust. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out online social events or communities. Many have websites, online support groups, social media sites, or virtual events. It also may help to talk to a friend or family member about your concerns. 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.

Be realistic with your goals and plans. Even though your holiday plans may look different this year, you can find ways to celebrate. Have an action plan ready to go for times when depression or stress symptoms strike. If you can’t concentrate during depressive episodes, try to break down big work projects or holiday planning into small, manageable tasks. Then, take a break after you complete each one.

Acknowledge the world around you and set aside differences. Be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are others are feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.

Stick to a strict budget and find affordable things to do. 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, working, connecting with friends, and other activities. Consider whether you can shop online for any of your items or plan your shopping list ahead of time. That'll help prevent last-minute scrambling and stress.

Learn to say no or to make up for important commitments. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity. If it's not possible to say no, try to rearrange your agenda to make up for the lost time.

Don't abandon healthy habits. Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Be aware of how the information culture can produce stress and adjust the time you spend reading news or social media as you see fit. And always get plenty of rest.

Take a break to reduce your stress. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing, and restoring inner peace. Make some time for yourself. Find an activity you enjoy. Even just spending 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do.

Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or mental health professional. Depression can make even the little things in life difficult to get through. So, of course, it can take a toll on your job performance, too. Rather than pushing yourself through your workdays to the point of complete exhaustion, try to find ways to help keep your depression under control. Talk to a trusted co-worker and develop strategies to manage stress. And remember, it’s all right to take some time off if you need to.

Don't let the holidays become something you dread. Learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. As people deal with multiple layers of grief this holiday season, we must look at strategies to reduce negative emotions and maintain happiness during these unusual times.

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