Picture this: Your sister just called to tell you she’s been exposed to COVID-19 and has to cancel the already very condensed family gathering you had planned for Christmas. Your world crumbles. How do you cope?
As if we didn’t have enough stress in our lives already, 2020 came along and handed us the supersized stress special with an extra side of anxiety. Now, we get to add in the holidays and all that they entail. Having a reliable holiday tradition to hold onto would be very helpful this year, but even if you have plans right now, who knows how they will change tomorrow? And if you don’t have any plans, the holidays may just seem like days of time-off that drag on and don’t feel very different or special from a regular weekend. Whatever your situation this holiday season, here are some tips on how to adopt a healthy mindset as celebrate Christmas and get ready for 2021.
Change how you think about your stress
Stress is a contributing factor to many physical problems, including diabetes, stomach problems, mental illness, and even tumor development, writes Salleh Mohd Razali in his scientific article on life events, stress and illness. But the good news is that the amount of stress you have isn’t what predicts how it will affect you in the long run — it’s how you react to the stress in your life that determines how well your body can handle it, say psychologists like Alexandra Crosswell and Dr. Elissa Epel.
So, how can you practice reacting well to the stress of holiday chaos? Try positive thinking. Remind yourself that an unusual holiday season is not life threatening. You will survive this. And then reframe the experience. This could be the most memorable Christmas you have ever had. What a unique time to be alive, and what interesting memories you may end up with. Find the positive, whatever positive you can see, and focus on your stress as a new and interesting mountain to climb, rather than a deep, dark valley to sit helplessly in.
Assess your daily habits
Dr. Epel suggests thinking about what you do during the day and implementing better habits.
- Get away from social media and the news. The more breaks you take from scrolling, the better your mental health will be.
- Pray. Psychologists today often encourage meditation, and we Catholics have meditative prayer. Talk to God about what’s going on in life. Journal. Read Scripture and think about it in silence. Make prayer a daily habit to keep you grounded in what’s most important. COVID-19 will pass. God will be here after it passes, just as He is here with us in the thick of it.
- Exercise. Move your body. Get fresh air. It changes your perspective and brings you out of yourself and your overthinking and stressing.
- Eat well. Try a day of hiding the chips and chocolate and breaking out the water and fruit and protein. See how it helps your mood and stress levels.
Get better support
Reach out to the people you love more often. Reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while. You need to be supported, and you need to support others to feel more whole and connected this Christmas. Here are some ways to support others during the pandemic.
Don’t let work consume you
Set boundaries on when you work and respond to work-related issues. Don’t just work extra to fill the empty space over the holidays. Force yourself to walk away and do something else — be it exercise, a hobby, or reading a book.
With a few changes to your daily habits, and more focus spent on creatively connecting with others, this Christmas could be the most memorable one you’ve ever had. Look at this holiday season as an adventure, and be ready to welcome whatever comes as you celebrate the birth of our Savior in a unique, new way.
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