Yes, the holidays are with us!

Unfortunately, however, for more than a few of us, this usually joyous and festive occasion has turned out to be the exact opposite of what we thought, hoped, and planned it would be.

That’s because we’re still contending with the COVID-19 virus, which has upended our lives in ways that were utterly inconceivable nearly two years ago.  This global pandemic continues to loom over us like the darkest and deadliest specter imaginable.

Oftentimes, even in a regular or “normal” year, the holiday season brings unwelcome guests:  stress and depression.  Why?  Well, many times, the holidays present a frenzy of demands—including shopping, baking, preparing meals, cleaning, and entertaining.

And now, on top of all that, we still have COVID!  It hasn’t ceased ravaging our communities.  Consequently, you may be feeling additional stress from worrying about your and your loved ones’ health.  You may be mourning the loss of loved ones felled by this virus.  You may be recovering but are not out of the woods yet due to long COVID, which means you are suffering from a range of symptoms lasting longer than a month.

You may be one of the millions who hasn’t yet gained a firm economic footing. Your financial situation may be rather precarious.

However, the following tips and strategies of two expert sources can help minimize the stress and consternation that this holiday season may bring.  And hopefully, you’ll end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would.

Let’s start with some very compassionate and commonsensical approaches, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic:

  • Acknowledge your feelings.  “If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones for other reasons, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief.  It’s okay 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 community, religious, or other social events or communities.  Many may have websites, online support groups, social media sites, or virtual events.  They can offer support and companionship.”  And don’t leave out family members and friends.
  • 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.  For example, if your adult children or other relatives can’t come to your home, 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.  Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion.  And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry.  Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.”

Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a multi-award-winning psychotherapist, provides more solid tools to round out your holiday game plan.

  • Keep your expectations balanced.  “You won’t get everything you want, things will go wrong, and you won’t feel like Bing Crosby singing ‘White Christmas’.  Remember that everything doesn’t have to be perfect and don’t worry about things that are out of your control.”
  • Don’t try to do too much.  Fatigue, over-scheduling, and taking on too many tasks can dampen your spirits.  Learn to say no, delegate as much as possible, and manage your time wisely.  If you choose to do less, you will have more energy to enjoy the most important part of the season–friends and family.”
  • Watch your diet and remember to exercise.  “It’s normal to eat more during the holidays, but be aware of how certain foods affect your mood.  If you eat fats and sweets, you will have less energy, which can make you feel more stressed and run down.”
  • Be aware of the Post-Holiday Syndrome.  “When all the hustle and bustle suddenly stop and you have to get back to the daily grind, it can be a real letdown.  Ease out of all the fun by planning a rest day toward the end of the season.”

And in a nutshell, here’s my advice:

  • Don’t be too hard on yourself!
  • Do whatever (the hell) you feel like doing.
  • Temper your expectations.
  • It might not be easy but count your blessings.  ‘(Memba:  there’s always somebody out there who’s in a worse pickle than you.)

(Now, Y’all!  Take a gander at this brotha.  He’s got the “HS” (Holiday Spirit), don’tcha know!  LOL!