8 Ways to Cope with Holiday Stress During a Pandemic
Let’s be honest. ‘Tis the season to feel a bit stressed out. The holidays are a joyous time of year but also overwhelming — lots of people to catch up with, tons of gifts to buy, and so much work to manage it all. With the added pressures of a pandemic going on, “hangxiety” (aka holiday anxiety) is one virtual holiday party away.
According to a recent study by the American Psychological Association, the pandemic is a significant source of stress for 78% of adults with Gen Xers, millennials, and Gen Zers feeling it most intensely.
This holiday season, we’re counting down eight ways to practice self-care.
1. Nurture Your Body
“Exercise is also super-important,” says Jennifer Fuller, Openfit trainer and yoga instructor. “Whatever that looks like for you — walking, HIIT, running, yoga, Pilates, barre — prioritize physical movement.”
Dancing to “Jingle Bell Rock” totally counts as cardio, too.
2. Honor Your Emotions
“Practice acceptance and remind yourself that it’s OK to feel sad or lonely,” says psychologist Nicole Issa, PsyD. “Anticipate you may feel down if you’ve lost someone recently, gone through a breakup, or are away from family.”
Journaling is a good self-care practice for expressing and connecting with emotions.
Since the holidays go hand in hand with cocktails, drink mindfully and notice when celebratory sips are becoming tequila shots to drown emotions.
If you’re starting to feel down, “then early intervention is key,” says Issa. “Online therapy is a great option and more accessible than ever.”
3. Stimulate Your Mind
“Self-soothe using the five senses: Get in your comfiest sweater or snuggle under a blanket, burn your favorite scented candle, eat or drink something soothing like herbal tea, look at artwork or pretty landscapes online, and listen to music that comforts you or is uplifting,” says Issa.
Intellectual activities can also boost your mood. Reading a book or working on a jigsaw puzzle are mental workouts that activate your brain.
4. Support Your Spirit
“Give yourself the gift of reducing stress for 10 minutes a day with a simple seated meditation practice, pranayama breathwork, or a loving kindness meditation,” says Fuller. “A gratitude practice can help remind us to be grateful for all that we do have.”
“Connecting with nature is also very helpful,” she says. “Get out and go for a walk.” Walking has a ton of benefits but requires little gear.
5. Connect With People You Love
“Around this time of year, comparing yourself to others on social media could create stress and anxiety,” says Fuller. Take breaks from social media when you need them, but keep a balance.
“If you’re feeling disconnected, reach out to friends and family, participate in virtual community groups, or safe social distancing activities,” she says. “Join the Openfit app, or start a group chat with Openfit Teammates.”
You can also volunteer virtually, recommends Issa. “Giving back can help boost your mood and feel connected to others.”
6. Create a Happy Place
“Your environment is the ultimate foundation for your well-being and a representation of how we feel inside and out,” says Rashia Bell, an interior designer and co-founder of The Cristalline.
Infuse your home with feel-good holiday vibes. “I love using essential oils in a diffuser, like cardamom or cinnamon, peppermint or spruce, to set a holiday tone,” says Bell, who specializes in creating spaces that reflect the energy you want to attract. “Lighting is a huge factor, and candles always create a cozy environment.”
Use a few pillar candles to make a faux fireplace in a small space or decorate with anything that makes you feel cheerful.
7. Find Work-Life Balance
“Know your boundaries and stick to them,” says GinaMarie Guarino, a licensed mental health counselor. “Prioritize what is most important to you, and allow yourself to say no or set limits with others, so you are not left feeling stressed and overwhelmed.”
Take “mini holidays” or breaks each day and make time to celebrate without the pressures of work.
8. Do an Honest Financial Checkup
“Let go of your expectations of who you used to be, or what you used to do this time of year, and be present in what’s going on without having unrealistic expectations,” says Fuller.
Holiday shopping can add financial stress. Instead of overextending your budget, DIY thoughtful gifts or host a present exchange, so you’re only buying one item for a group, recommends Fuller.
Most importantly, you need to take care of yourself before you can help others — and “remember we are all in this together,” says Issa.