Healthy Coping – Thriving through the Holidays

In the words of the media, these are “unprecedented” times. No one anticipated in March that we would still be dealing with the coronavirus at the holidays. Yet, here we are… now what?

We are being advised to curtail holiday plans by skipping traditional large gatherings, not traveling and staying out of public places. Numbers of those infected are spiking while there is talk of a vaccine, health care facilities are maxing out, we are hearing of more daily deaths and, as a nation, we are still divided on the issue of wearing masks.

People are stressed, confused and scrambling to hold onto some sense of “normal”. As we plan and go through this holiday season, can we think outside the box and find ways to hold onto or create meaning and memories in the midst of the pandemic?

Perhaps the best place to start is looking back at the things that we hold most dear during the holidays. Some of this won’t be possible this year, and that must be acknowledged because there is a loss. However, what is most important to make this year special rather than ruined?

We can also acknowledge how there will be reduction in stress. We will not be desperate on Black Friday elbowing other shoppers for the latest limited item that is on demand. We won’t be fighting over parking spaces, running from party to party or scrambling to get presents wrapped at midnight. We may even avoid the “holiday 5” pounds that most people gain between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

COVID presents us with an opportunity to experience a more laid back holiday. Perhaps we can take more time to relax at home in our lounge clothes and watch holiday movies, call friends on the phone and arrange zoom parties for family members.

During COVID, I have called these “COVID Bonuses”. Many people have reported enjoying more time with their kids, working remotely, spending less on gas, eating home cooked meals, and spending time with their dogs outdoors on longer walks. These are the byproducts of being thrown into rapid and wanted change, we can call it the ‘silver lining’.

These holidays will be different, but they don’t have to be bad. Our approach and attitude will “make or break” our experience. We don’t have control over the virus, but we do have choice in our reaction to it. Set the intention to make these holidays a positive experience for you and your family. Avoid complaining, step away from news, focus on the positives.

Find new options. There are drive-through light shows, outdoor walking events in some towns, pick up meals from restaurants, collective events like online secret Santa or ringing bells on Christmas Eve at the same time as your neighbors.

People are amazingly resilient. If we were paying attention we have seen evidence of this across the world as COVID hit. Singing from balconies in Italy, dancing in the streets in the US, signs & expressions of gratitude to health care workers or stocking food banks for those in need.

During these holidays lets not give into despair but remember that the season highlights the reason to believe in hope. “We can light a candle in the darkness rather than curse the darkness“, (Eleanor Roosevelt). The one thing we can choose is our perspective.

Those who thrive during this time are practicing acceptance, counting their blessings and finding new meaning in the midst of change. Here are some tips:

  • Name what has changed
  • Acknowledge your feelings
  • Accept that it’s different
  • Find a way to create meaning
  • Connect in the ways you can
  • Enjoy the byproducts of the situation (COVID bonuses)
  • Count the blessings you have
  • Avoid unhealthy coping; spending, overeating, sleeping & drinking
  • Eat right, sleep well, move your body
  • Be festive and decorate for the holidays
  • Be charitable in some way
  • Find humor
  • Feed your mind positive things
  • Create a memory
  • Hold hope for the future
  • Remember that “this too shall pass”

If you find that you are struggling more than normal and feel talking with someone will help, our therapists are available online through telehealth. We are experienced in recognizing the line between adjusting to life circumstances and tipping into a mental health issue such as depression, anxiety or substance use disorder.

Please reach out, there is no reason to be alone, we are here for you.

If you are, or someone you know is, feeling lost, overwhelmed, depressed or in need of support during this holiday season, we at Barrington Behavioral Health and Wellness are here to help.

Phone: 1-888-261-2178

Dr. Denise Casey, Psy.D.


Dr. Denise Casey is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with a Certification in Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling and a National Board Certification in Clinical Hypnosis. She is also Certified in Cognitive Therapy and has studied addictions and hypnosis at advanced levels.

Her general experience in working with young adults to seniors has equipped her to deal with a wide variety of issues. Dr. Casey is highly skilled, deeply compassionate, and presents a very casual and caring atmosphere.

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