The holiday season looks a little different this year. Often the last few months of the year are busy with holiday parties, bustling shopping trips, and visiting family and friends but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, things like traveling and gathering in large groups outside of your immediate household isn’t possible.

Many people have lost loved ones and will be missing someone’s presence during the festivities; many others have lost their jobs and are facing exasperated financial stress. Others, like healthcare workers, may be working overtime and unable to take as much time off around the holidays as they usually can. It can be hard to cope with these kinds of challenges, especially if certain holidays are the only time you see some of your loved ones.

If you live with a mental health condition, you may have an especially difficult time with the uncertainty and the change of plans this year. Many people with mental health conditions find consistency and stability important in their lives, especially during times of high stress – like both the pandemic and the holiday season. A sudden shift in tradition may have you feeling an extreme loss of control and disappointment.

Change is difficult for most people, especially when you didn’t ask for or expect them. But that doesn’t mean that the holidays are destined to be drab this year. There are plenty of ways to cope with the tough feelings you’re experiencing while still enjoying the holidays:

Identify How You’re Feeling

Figuring out your emotions about the upcoming holidays can make things feel less overwhelming. This year has been a difficult year for many reasons, and that means that some of your distress is likely related to things other than the holidays. It is completely normal for you to be feeling a bit more emotional than usual right now. Take some time to sort through your emotions in whatever way is most productive for you – you can journal, talk to a friend, or just spend some quiet time alone thinking. Once you have a better idea of the specific feelings you’re experiencing, you can start making plans to cope with them.

Make The Most Of It

There’s no denying that things will be different this year, but the holidays don’t need to be canceled. You can still mail baked goods to your friends and family, decorate gingerbread houses, and break out confetti poppers for New Year’s Eve.

Don’t Romanticize Your Typical Holiday Plans

Remember that while your holiday season may normally be full of extended family members gathering for a good meal and holiday cheer, it can also be a time of high stress. Long days of travel, endless to-do lists, and dinners are all part of the holidays too. Even though you may be giving up some of your favorite things about the holidays this year, you’re probably leaving some stressors behind too. You don’t need to be happy about this – sometimes the chaos is part of the fun! – But be careful not to distort the situation and make it seem worse than it really is.

Practice Gratitude

Gratitude is a major focus this time of year, and while it may seem harder to find things to appreciate, there is still plenty to be thankful for. Make a conscious effort to regularly identify some things that you’re grateful for. It can be something as broad as your health, or something as specific as your favorite song playing on the radio the last time you got in the car. Change is hard, but it isn’t always bad. There are still ways to celebrate the season with your loved ones, even if you must give up some of your favorite traditions. Find creative ways to adapt. Or start new traditions – they may even add more meaning to your holiday season.

If you’re still finding yourself sad, hopeless, or unable to enjoy the holidays this year, you may be struggling with a mental health condition. Contact us and visit with one of our friendly counsellors with Thrive Walk-In Counselling for a 60-minute session at no cost.