Five Tips to Manage Stress During Pandemic Holiday and Beyond

With new restrictions in place in many Canadian provinces, the holiday season is already looking different than usual. What are some ways to build resilience and limit your stress?

Last week Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam put out a statement urging Canadians to take special care of their mental health this holiday season. 

“Feelings of stress are common during the holidays and I understand that these emotions may be amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tam.

“I encourage you to take care of your mental health and wellness, including reaching out to a supportive friend or family member to talk about how you are feeling and to seek out available resources, such as the Wellness Together Canada Portal, which is available to Canadians of all ages free of charge.”

Stock image man and woman on couch in front of laptop

Many adults have reported specific negative impacts on their mental health and wellbeing due to worry and stress due to the coronavirus, such as difficulty sleeping (36 percent) or eating (32 percent) and increases in alcohol consumption or substance use (12 percent). 

Preparations for the holiday are now underway. Holiday decorations are being put up, the best stocking stuffers are being bought, and recipes decided for what to eat to celebrate this winter. 

This year, however, because Canadians may not be able to get together outside of their own homes during the upcoming holiday break, the perfect holiday plan that we want isn’t what we might get. It can be disappointing. 

“Although the road to widespread and lasting immunity to COVID-19 won’t be as sudden or as soon as we’d like, let’s stay grounded and not lose our footing. This is especially important as we plan for the upcoming holidays,” said Tam. 

As humans we strive to be both healthy and happy. You can see by the way best-selling books often feature these topics or how slogans like “Keep Calm and Carry On” hang as posters in office spaces and doctors offices. 

Here are five pieces of advice from the Covergalls team: 

Acknowledge the feelings

This year has sucked. It’s been hard. We have had to sacrifice things and lost people we love. These are feelings we have all shared, and will continue to have, as we deal with the pandemic. It’s important to recognize that we are struggling with all the changes that came this year. 

Grief expert David Kessler spoke on Unlocking Us, a podcast hosted by New York Times best-selling author Brené Brown, about love, loss and grieving. It was a great episode to listen to and reflect on the feelings we may have had this year. 

 Talk about it with someone 

Putting your feelings into words helps. We have evidence that it helps from brain scans, psychological studies and experts and psychologists. As we navigate the ups and downs of life it’s important to have a network and support system in place. This network is made up of family and friends and colleagues. Social support is essential to your health.

Friends and networks are also great to help empower women and make change happen!

Talking about it with someone can also include yourself. Writing about our problems is another way we let out our emotions and gain a greater perspective. It's a simple mindfulness practice, such as consciously noting and labeling our emotions (“sad,” “anxious,” “confused”), which helps let us separate our thoughts from ourselves and become more mindful on why we are feeling the way we are right now. For example, why might having the holidays not turning out the way you pictured make you feel stressed? 

Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges you to see stress as a positive in her TEDTalk, How to make Stress your Friend, and suggests reaching out to others.

Try not to feel guilty or disappointed with outcomes 

It’s hard when things don’t go the way you want them to go. Expressing your sadness and disappointment doesn’t mean that there is blame or guilt to express. It’s not your family or relatives' fault if they didn’t feel comfortable to travel to the family dinner. You may also feel guilty that you aren’t doing as much as you feel you should be doing. 

Guilt is a normal, healthy emotion. Don’t feel like you shouldn’t feel this way. Ignoring or suppressing this feeling isn’t going to be helpful. Try to shift from guilt to gratitude. Think about what you do have and feel thankful for that instead. Be kind to yourself. 

Focus on flexibility

Adapting with changes - it’s a mindset that is often sought and seen as fundamental in healthy mental states. This year is different from previous years so it's important to try to stay flexible with outcomes. Try to think of creative or fun ways to make this holiday special. The things that will make lasting memories are what you decide to do to celebrate. If board games with the family were the usual, perhaps you can still do the same online? JackBox Games has some, such as Blather ‘Round, which is a guessing game full of blundering and stumbling which can be entertaining.

Need a last minute gift idea? Give the gift of safety while supporting Sudbury’s local businesses! You can get two premium fabric face masks made by us, locally made hand sanitizer by @crosscutdistillery and delicious smelling soap made by @oldsoulsoapcompany *limited quantities available

A positive outlook makes a measurable difference

In the 2019 Annual Review of Psychology, Sarah Pressman, a health psychologist at the University of California, and colleagues explored why a positive outlook generates physical health benefits. It’s a claim often viewed with scepticism. 

“Positive psychology comes under regular attack from critics, perhaps due to cynicism regarding the idea that something that seems so intangible and unscientific could have real health effects, confusing societal attitudes about happiness with empirical findings, or the endless list of happiness self-help books published by nonresearchers,” states the conclusion. 

Several recent reviews, however, have indicated that positive affect (PA) is associated with health benefits. For example, evidence suggests that those who are more positive tend to live five to 10 years longer than those who are less positive. 

@NickelBelt's kind, handwritten note

Thank you @NickelBelt for taking the time to send this kind, handwritten note! Perfect example of how to spread joy easily. 

A good amount of our day-to-day wellbeing can be determined on how we choose to spend our time. We choose to spend our time on things that make us happy, such as talking with friends and family and writing in journals. It’s also important to know that we can choose to change our outlook. Perhaps this year can be one where you send handwritten holiday cards, or borrow an ebook from the library rather than buy a hardcover one. 

Whatever your decision, self-care is important this year and next. Try to reflect and find activities that you enjoy.

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