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COVID-19 and the Holiday Season: Tips to Manage Stress

November 25, 2020

Holiday celebrations can add extra stress during an already stressful year. We’re sharing 9 tips to help you navigate the season while protecting your mental health.

Stress and Holidays

By Jen DiMatteo
Program Coordinator, Parent Connection

It’s common to feel increased stress and depression during the holiday season. As adults, we are often faced with the pressure to meet added demands like extra cooking, shopping, entertaining and tighter schedules.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, you might also find yourself with fewer outlets for your stress and fewer people outside your household to interact with. You might also be under extra financial strain or struggling with day-to-day schedules and routines as you try to balance work, childcare, school, and your sanity.  It’s a lot for anyone, at any time in life. But over the holidays?  These extra stressors can easily bring up feelings of failure, disappointment, and uncertainty.

The first step to managing stress in this difficult season is to focus on what you CAN control rather than what you CAN’T. Using the 9 methods below, you and your family will be better able to enjoy the holidays with those you choose to spend them with!

9 Tips for managing stress over the holidays:


1.) Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings and what may be causing them. Understand you are not alone in how you feel. Recognize how high amounts of stress affect your mind, body, and health.  Refocus on things you can control for in that moment.  Focus on the things in your life that hold the most meaning to you, as well as the things you value about yourself.  Stressful situations can move us away from what we value most.

2.) Be realistic about what you can do versus how you want things to be.  We cherish our traditions and time with family and friends, and we envision the perfect holiday celebrations.  But during this pandemic, remember that staying home is one of the best ways to stay safe. It’s okay to find new ways to share the holidays with those you love this year. Accepting imperfection can often lead to more honest human connection.  Making the most of the situations that are in your control will help you accept and get through those things you cannot control.

3.) Reach out to others for connection and support.  Connect with your family and friends through positive memories and experiences.   Write a holiday letter to those you care about sharing all you are thankful for.  Plan video chats where you share activities together like crafts, cooking, game night and more.  Talk to people in your life about putting differences aside, and share with each other all you cherish from your relationships.  Letting go of and accepting each other for things that are in the past and for your differences can help release negative feelings.

4.) Stay present when spending time with your loved ones.  Use all your senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch) to take in these moments. Focus on giving your full attention to the loved ones around you. When we are focused and present in the moment, we are better able to make memories that leave us feeling fulfilled.

5.) Know your budget. Before shopping for everyone on your shopping list, know how much you can afford to spend, how many people you plan to shop for, and make a list of affordable gift ideas for each person.  To save money, you can also consider making homemade gifts, having gift exchanges, or doing things for others.  Remember that the holidays are a time to share together, make memories and enjoy those closest to you in your life.  The gift of time and memories cannot be returned and has more value than money can buy.

6.) Schedule your time for shopping, baking and festivities.  Be sure to plan around day-to-day activities so you can maintain your daily routines.  From bedtime to waking time, school and work, exercise and free time, keeping these routines during the pandemic and holidays will help you and your family keep your minds and bodies healthy, stay productive, and enjoy your time together more.  Consider taking time out for yourself by walking, listening to music, reading a book, or some other activity you enjoy.  Plan for family unwinding time. This could include family walks, game night, movie night, crafting, or cooking together.

7.) Don’t take on more than you can handle.  It is okay to say “no.”  From work to social events, people will understand if you cannot take on more.  If it is work related, consider if there are other things you can take off your list, or ask if deadlines can be extended.  Don’t feel obligated to attend social gatherings, and don’t be afraid to let people know if you choose not to gather for the safety of yourself and your family.

8.) Practice acts of kindness. Many of us feel alone during the holidays and times of high stress.  Find small ways to act out of kindness for those around you. This can include small gestures to help others, such as volunteering in the community or donating to those most in need.  Acts of kindness help us feel connection to others.

9.) Don’t hesitate to ask for help.  If you find that you are consistently feeling depressed, anxious, withdrawn, or behaving in ways that are unlike your usual self, please talk to someone for help.  Consider talking to trusted family or friends, a mental health professional, or a religious leader.

Remember, if you are not taking care of yourself, you will not be able to be be there for others. You can’t pour from an empty cup!

The stressors we feel from time to time will change, and they will look different for everyone. Trust that the situational stressors in your life will pass and you can look forward to better times.  These situations offer us opportunity to learn, grow and make positive changes in our lives.  When we find ourselves living with stress that will be with us for awhile, we do need to ground ourselves, create space in our minds and bodies, and find the good in all around us.

This holiday season, may you recognize all the good in your life, build more opportunity for connection and fulfillment, and use this time to create positive memories to last a lifetime!




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Resources to Help when Coping with Change Gets Tough

September 1, 2020

The pandemic has resulted in increased anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide for some Americans. If you or someone you know is having a hard time coping, the following resources are available to help.

Crisis Center counseling

“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change -” ― Heraclitus


By Erin Neilan, LCSW
Clinical Supervisor
Wisconsin Lifeline 

2020 has been a year of lows, and even lower lows. There is a global pandemic. The United States is amid a social justice crisis. Unemployment is skyrocketing, and everyone is faced with the difficult decision of what is the safest way for them to live their lives as normally as possible. One is routinely faced with the question “what IS normal now?”

Everyone knows change is something which is inevitable. The uncertainty of it can cause many of us to do our best to avoid it. Why? Because it is uncomfortable. It is different. It takes us out of our routines, and it can disrupt our lives. Even good change, like a promotion, marriage or buying a house can create a new level of stress and anxiety. These things, although positive, shift our routines. Our version of “normal” changes. However, we are often able to adapt. Typically there is a period of readjustment, but we do in fact, adjust.

Change means unknowns. It requires us to face the reality that we are not in control. Change is often the catalyst for us to confront the things within ourselves we would prefer to avoid when things are the status quo. COVID-19 has disrupted our status quo. Our worlds have been turned upside down.

In April of this year, the Journal of the American Medical Association wrote that economic stress, social isolation, reduced access to religious services and overall national anxiety increased both firearm sales and healthcare worker suicides. The number of Americans reporting increased symptoms of anxiety and depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control, has tripled since this time last year. The CDC also reports that 11% of adults surveyed in the last 30 days have had thoughts of suicide.

Job loss, economic insecurity and worries of losing housing due to eviction are thoughts millions of Americans experience daily. Monumental changes that threaten being able to maintain our basic needs is not the form of change many can just “roll with.” For many, positive affirmations, motivational statements, and reassurance that everything will be okay, simply isn’t enough. There are too many people who simply do not want to wake up in the morning.

It is crucial to recognize the individual trauma and the collective trauma we have all experienced since the pandemic began. Communicating our experiences honestly, validating others’ experiences, and acknowledging the grief that has come with COVID-19, is now our normal; and it is critical we talk about it!

Most people are not comfortable opening up about their feelings. It isn’t something that comes naturally for many. Being vulnerable with another person can be scary. However, talking, processing through thoughts and feelings and having another human validate us and be present for us, is how we can heal. It is how we can survive this incredibly difficult time in our lives.

If you or someone you care about is experiencing feelings of anxiety, fear or depression related to COVID-19, there are resources available.

Wisconsin 2-1-1 has launched a hotline specifically designated for anyone struggling with the effects of COVID-19. There are trained counselors available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, who can talk and provide resources for anyone seeking assistance. Brown County residents can also call the Crisis Center of Family Services at (920) 436-8888 to talk to a trained crisis counselor. In some situations, a crisis counselor may be able to come to you.

Yes, change is constant. But we are experiencing changes that are truly out of the ordinary. It is important to know we are collectively grieving as a country. Although we are physically distanced, we do not have to handle the emotional consequences of this pandemic on our own.

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