COVID Stress: Holiday and Family Edition

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4 holiday-related conversation starters to ease pandemic angst.

Under normal circumstances, the holidays can provoke anxiety and depression. Now, we’re coping with the added pressure of celebrating safely in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Based on CDC recommendations, limiting the number of people at social gatherings reduces transmission and saves lives. Families must work through the challenging, often painful task of deciding how they’ll celebrate the holidays and with whom. How do we break the news to loved ones while avoiding hurt feelings and family strife?

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Here are four holiday-related pandemic conversation starters:

Share your feelings.

Regardless of whether you’ll be declining an invitation or breaking the news that you’re scaling back on the number of family members attending a holiday gathering, let family members know you’ll be sad and disappointed about not being with them. Heart-to-heart conversations are the superglue of all close relationships. Sharing our vulnerabilities with loved ones deepens our attachments.


Plan ahead with coping strategies.

Don’t underestimate how sad you might feel. Though we’ve been living through the pandemic for several months now, it doesn’t mean we’re immune to feelings of grief and loss. Commit to self-care strategies that provide emotional comfort—things like exercising, keeping a journal, taking hot baths, watching feel-good movies, and scheduling phone calls or FaceTime calls with family and friends.

Related Article: Parenting During the Pandemic

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Be mindful of your social media habits.

Use social media in interactive ways. Targeted interactions with virtual friends and family enhance our relationships and wellbeing. By contrast, passively consuming social media is linked to poor emotional health.


Plan a virtual holiday gathering.

This affords opportunities to make new memories in different ways. It’s also a sure way to avoid family conflict and strife.


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Dr. Paula Durlofsky is a psychologist, blogger and author of Logged in and Stressed out.

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