The holiday season is quickly approaching, which means that it is time to start thinking about your plans. With the ongoing pandemic, these plans will probably look a bit different than years past. Due to factors such as travel restrictions and susceptible family members, there is bound to be a lot of stress that comes with deciding what to do. This all comes on top of the toll the pandemic has taken on our mental health after months of social isolation and the growing quarantine fatigue many are experiencing. 

Whatever you end up deciding, the key to having a successful holiday season is planning. This means you should start conversations now with family and friends and assess what your options are going to be. Are you comfortable with an indoor gathering with people outside of your household or will you forego in-person gatherings altogether? If you will be partaking in an indoor gathering, what do you envision it looking like? Luckily, we have already navigated through several holidays since the start of the pandemic, so we most likely have learned a thing or two from these experiences. 

Keep in mind that it is normal to have differing opinions from family and friends. As conversations around stay-at-home orders and mask mandates arise, make sure to tell your loved ones how you feel and how the pandemic has affected you. On the other hand, conversations might extend beyond the pandemic and into the political sphere. The holidays tend to be notorious for disagreements about this subject and this year especially with the election not too far in the past. By setting boundaries with your loved ones, you can keep the conversation healthy and productive. At the end of the day, however, the biggest takeaway from this process is that there are going to be differing viewpoints that we will need to respect. 

Even with proper planning, the holidays will most likely result in disappointment and unfulfilled expectations of traditional celebrations for so many of us. To help maintain a more positive mental health outlook during this time, it is important to accept the reality of the situation. Consider some of the following to help find meaning, purpose, and joy for the holidays ahead:

  • Engage in self-reflection and introspection to find out what the holiday season truly means to you. Try to identify the most important thing to you and focus on replicating it the best you can.
  • Share this with your family, loved ones, and close friends. Have a conversation about their thoughts and feelings.
  • Get creative and develop some new rituals with family, loved ones, and friends that express the spirit of the holiday season.
  • Take time to focus on you. During this time, it is important to maintain your own self-care routines. By eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising you can help boost your mood and your immune system. 

Lastly, do not be afraid to seek out help. When things get overwhelming, engaging with a mental health professional can mean a world of difference. A therapist can help you navigate through the unique challenges of this holiday season. They can assist you and your loved ones in finding creative ways to cope with and prevent mental health issues during this stressful time.  

About the Author

Kim Sandberg is the owner and founder of Alleviant Health Centers of San Diego and a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. She has two advanced degrees: a Masters of Science in Nursing as a Nurse Anesthetist and a Doctor of Nursing Practice. She has worked in a variety of settings, though the biggest impact on Kim and her work came from her 28 years of service in the Navy Reserve. By opening Alleviant Health Centers, Kim hopes to provide much-needed care for patients who struggle with mental health and chronic pain—especially to the population of veterans and servicemen who desperately need help. Moreover, she is excited to contribute to the holistic health movement by bringing integrative holistic psychiatry and other innovative treatments to the community of San Diego.

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