It is December, and a very different year end than we could have pictured at the start of 2020. For most people, the festive season generally is a very happy time of the year, a time of celebration and relaxation. However, even in more ‘normal’ times, it can be a time of increased stress, anxiety, disappointment, loneliness or increased financial pressures for many. Now, with Covid, that may be true for many more this December. The 2020 festive season will look very different for most of us this year, a time when large family get-togethers, group celebrations and even holiday shopping are now considered a risk to our health. Demands of family, parties, cooking and cleaning may have caused you stress and anxiety last year… But this year it has been replaced by the fear of the coronavirus, or giving it to someone you love.

As COVID-19 continues to cast its shadow, many are canceling long standing holiday traditions to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. This brings a different type of stress, replacing the frantic stress of having too much to do during the festive season with uncertainty, isolation and the loss of routine and tradition.

With all of this, Seasonal depression could be worse for some this year. Here’s how to handle it:

– redirect your thinking, keep a positive attitude and paint the future in a more positive light.

Remind yourself we are staying apart or limiting our traditional celebrations because we need to stay safe, and to ensure we can spend future holidays with our loved ones,

-make alternate plans. What are your family’s favorite traditions, and which will you miss the most? Discuss creative ways your family can safely adjust your traditions to make them possible and joyful during a pandemic, ie a joint Zoom lunch?

Here are some steps you can take to manage some of the stress and anxiety during the festive season:

-Acknowledge your feelings. If you can’t be with loved ones to protect them and yourself, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season

-Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out religious or community groups. Many may have websites, online support groups, social media sites or virtual events. They can offer support and companionship.

If you’re feeling stress during the holidays, it also may help to talk to a friend or family member about your concerns. Try reaching out with a text, a call or a video chat.

-Be realistic. 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. 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.

-Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Now is not the time to air your frustrations. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed easily. Everyone is experiencing Covid fatigue and 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. It will be all too easy to try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.

Try these ideas…

-bring others joy… donate to a charity in someone’s name.

-Give homemade gifts. How about some of that banana bread you have been perfecting in a handmade bag, a crochet beanie or a pretty plant in a handpainted coffee tin?

-Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, connecting with friends and other activities. Consider whether you can shop online for any of your items. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling, and repeat exposure in crowded malls to buy forgotten ingredients.

-Learn to say no. 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 a project or activity. And how do you say no?… Memorize this…

“While I’d love to see you, I’m avoiding in-person gatherings due to COVID-19 right now.”

You may feel like you need to give the person a detailed reasoning as to why you’re saying no, but there should be no need to do so… people know the drill with COVID-19 by now, we all know some people are high risk, and we also all know others are just generally more risk-averse.

-Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.

Eat healthy meals, trying to stick to general TLC guidelines when you can.

Drink lots of water.

Get plenty of sleep.

Include regular physical activity in your daily routine.

Try deep-breathing exercises, meditation or yoga.

Avoid excessive tobacco, alcohol and drug use.

-Avoid negative information overload. Be aware of how the information culture can add extra stress, and adjust the time you spend reading news and social media. Rather listen to music or watch comedy shows or funny you tube videos.

-Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Find an activity you enjoy. 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 control of the holidays…

With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.