The LCADA Way Tips on Coping with the Holidays & COVID-19 Stress
With COVID-19 cases on the rise and the most recent Governor’s restrictions on travel and group interactions, along with Thanksgiving and the holidays just around the corner, you may be feeling stressed. Add to this school aged kids at home, working from home and the changing weather, it’s clear the warm holiday traditions you cherish will be upended. It’s no surprise you’ll likely encounter increased stress and anxiety, especially those battling addictions and mental health disorders. To help you cope, here are some tips from the staff at The LCADA Way.
Mentally prepare yourself for the holidays. Managing your expectations for the winter season can help you prepare for what’s to come. Before filling out your calendar for the season, sit down and be realistic with yourself. Focus on what’s meaningful this season. It will be different than past years and will likely not come with the same family traditions. Think small and intimate.
Make safe choices for your family. Once you’ve identified your priorities, plan how you can meet your expectations in a way that’s safe and responsible. Whether you host a virtual dinner, spend the holidays at home or create new traditions, everyone needs to be more creative to have a meaningful holiday season this year. And remember, even though you may be tired of wearing masks and social distancing, these practices have proven helpful in controlling the spread of COVID-19.
Avoid bad behaviors. When stressed, you may find yourself turning to alcohol or other drugs or unhealthy foods. It’s important to recognize this coping mechanism only gives you short-term relief and can worsen your physical and mental health. Instead, take the extra time at home to sit down and plan out some realistic goals you’d like to achieve in the upcoming year. While 2020 has been unpredictable, it can be motivating to focus on the aspects of your life that you do have control over. Find that book you’ve been meaning to read, take that online course, bake that recipe or kick off the hobby you’ve been dying to try. Staying productive with activities you enjoy can help you remain present. For those in a recovery program, stay current with your meetings and connected to your support friends. Most important, check in with your friends and loved ones through phone or video chat.
Focus on what you can control. Practicing mindfulness can help ground you when you feel overwhelmed by unpredictability. When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or stressed, it can be difficult to get out of that mindset. It’s important to slow down and acknowledge why you may be feeling the way you are. Walk away from what you’re doing for a minute or two, reflect on why you’re feeling that way and if you can do anything about it at that moment.
Take some deep slow breaths in a quiet space. If you can address the source of stress at that moment, deal with it. If not, write it down and prioritize what needs to be done first.
Ask yourself if what you’re feeling stressed about is even worth getting upset over.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. We have all had a tough year. We have had to figure out new ways of living. Don’t beat yourself up over things you can’t control. Do the best you can to the best of your ability and give yourself credit for making it through.
Embrace old man winter. As days get shorter and darker, you might find yourself lacking energy and motivation. Plan fun activities and things to look forward to during the colder and darker months. Take advantage of snow days by getting outside with your family members and sledding or building snowmen. Plan a weekly movie or game night with those in your ‘bubble’ to look forward to every week or share a craft night where you decorate and personalize your masks. Re-discover your pantry and make something new in the kitchen with your family.
Turn up your favorite music and have a dance party by yourself or with your family.
Keep on moving and remain active. While the winter weather can make you want to spend all your free time under a blanket, it’s important to remain active. Exercise helps tremendously with boosting your mood. It releases the endorphins your brain needs to feel happy and satisfied. If you don’t feel comfortable going to a gym or it’s too cold out for your favorite outdoor activities, there are plenty of ways to get active at home. And just because it’s colder outside doesn’t mean you can’t go bike, walk, hike and skate. If you find yourself making excuses to not exercise, schedule the exercise in your phone or on your calendar. The goal is 2.5 hours per week. You have seven days to hit that goal and you can get a good workout in as little as 15 minutes per session. If you work from home, use that extra time you’re not commuting to get in some exercise.
Take time for yourself. While it may be disappointing that some of your traditional holiday plans have shifted this year, try to be optimistic. The holidays often bring stress and anxiety due to the countless obligations. Now’s the time to decompress and relax. If you feel burned out, it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals, drinking lots of water and staying active. Incorporating these things into your routine will leave you feeling good inside and out. Take time to reflect on your religious traditions and read passages regularly. When you find an activity that brings you peace, incorporate it into your daily or weekly routine. By being consistent and intentional with your self-care routine, you can reduce or prevent feelings of stress and anxiety.
Remember, we’re all living through this together and we will eventually get to the other side of this pandemic. Don’t beat yourself up as you try to learn how to do a virtual meeting or prepare your children for school. You’re doing the best you can. Try to support and uplift each other at this time because this world definitely needs a ‘group hug’ right now.”
For help with your stress or regular abuse of alcohol and other drugs, contact The LCADA Way Helpline at (440) 989-4900 in Lorain and Cuyahoga county, (330) 952-1544 in Medina county and (419) 871-8500 in Erie county to talk with one of our professionals.