Here is an excellent article from Indiana University Health about how to cope with holiday and COVID-19 stress. This holiday you may be feeling more stress that ever before. COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly, family plans are changing, days are shorter, kids are trapped in the house, and your cherished traditions may not happen. Add the normal holiday stress to this mix, and it is a recipe for high anxiety for both you and your children. Dr. Mecca Maxey-Smartt, MD from Indiana University, offers the following tips which are summarized below.

Mentally prepare yourself for the holidays

Manage your expectations for the winter season. Before you fill your calendar, sit down and be realistic about what you can and want to do. Focus on what’s meaningful this holiday. “Is it family? Health? Slowing down and being in the moment? Staying safe?

If staying safe is a priority, then plan how you can be responsible with your family and other loved ones. Keep those masks on, observe 6 ft. distance rules, limit travel, host a virtual dinner, and create new traditions. The point is to keep all those around you healthy.

Learn how to respond to feeling overwhelmed

It will easier than ever to feel overwhelmed this holiday time. Just like we have to adjust physically to the winter season with a pandemic raging, we must also thrive mentally. Here are some steps to recognize and relieve stress:

  1. Walk away from what you are doing for a minute or two, reflect on why you’re feeling that way and if you can do anything about it.
  2. Take some slow deep breaths in a quiet space. If you can address the source of the stress, deal with it. If not, write it down and prioritize what needs to be done first
  3. Ask yourself if what you’re feeling stressed about is even worth getting upset over.
  4. Give yourself permission to not sweat the small stuff.

Look on the sunny side

You may find you are lacking energy and motivation. Try embracing the dark, cold winter with these tips:

  1. Bundle up and go outside often.
  2. Plan a weekly movie or game night with those in your “bubble” to look forward to each week.
  3. Have a craft night.
  4. Re-discover your pantry and cook something new.
  5. Have a dance party with yourself and/or your family and/or on Zoom.

Keep on moving

Exercise at least 2.5 hours a week. You have 7 days to fit it in, so make a schedule and get on it!

Take time for yourself

Here are some small ways to stay balanced when you begin to feel overwhelmed:

  1. Reset yourself. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating well, drinking lots of water, and staying active.
  2. Moderate. Try not to turn to alcohol or unhealthy foods.
  3. Organize. Clean out those areas of your house that you have been putting off.
  4. Plan. Take the extra time at home to sit down and plan out some realistic goals for the next year.
  5. Participate. With more time at home, do things you have put off. Read a book, take that online course, bake that recipe, start a hobby.
  6. Connect. Check in with loved ones through phone or video chat.

Summary for coping with holiday & COVID-19 stress

This holiday may hold more stress than any past holidays. Dr. Maxey-Smartt has given us some excellent ideas about how to manage this season and stay healthy. Please share with others who want to de-stress for the holidays.

You will also want to keep your children as mentally and physically healthy as you keep yourself. For excellent ideas on how to do that, please review other blogs on this website and look at Shrinking the Worry Monster for your children.

Sally Baird, PhD is a retired child psychologist and co-author of a new book titled Shrinking the Worry Monster, A Kids’ Guide for Saying Goodbye to Worries. See her website at If your child has worries about COVID-19, you may want to read Dr. Sally’s blog on helping kids who worry about the pandemic, school, illness, and so much more!

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