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  • Writer's pictureJordan Zipkin, LMFT

The Most Essential Steps to Navigating the Holidays in the Midst of the Pandemic

The holidays are meant to be a source of connection, peace, and joy. They also tend to drag along with them noteworthy stress, anxiety, sadness, and overwhelm. Now, add COVID-19 to the mix. You see where this is going. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to unfold this way.

Set and Maintain Realistic Expectations: The truth is that the holidays will not look the same for everyone as they did last year. For instance, due to the pandemic, perhaps you decided that you and your elderly parents will not physically see each other. While you won’t be able to celebrate the holidays physically with one another, you have other options.

For instance, your parents could participate in the activities through Skype. Additionally, there are a handful of online games in which you and your parents could play to enjoy the experience as much as possible.

Regardless of which creative path(s) you and your family take, deciding upon and engaging in these reasonable adaptations to an unreasonable event can make the holidays as good as possible.

Establish and Complete Several Short-Term SMART Goals: The holidays, with or without the addition of the pandemic, are often filled with plenty of to-do lists and activities, all of which can foster anxiety and overwhelm.

The best way to approach and complete these various endeavors is to create several short-term SMART goals around them. SMART stands for specific, measurable, adjustable, realistic, and time-based. An example of one such SMART goal is “I will spend 1-2 hours for 1-2 days/wk during this next week reading about 2-3 possible Thanksgiving turkey recipes.”

The idea here is to take the multitude of tasks, which at first glance feel quite challenging, and break them up into much smaller, more achievable tasks and goals.

Additionally, as you complete each of them, give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it.

Take Consistent Meaningful Breaks: Since we’re on the topic of celebrations, imagine yourself blowing up a balloon. You relentlessly push oxygen into the balloon until it’s as big as possible. Do you stop there and tie the knot? Do you let some air out so the balloon is less likely to pop? Or, do you keep on pushing air into it? I think we know what happens if we take option 3. Similarly, we know what happens if we don’t take the right kind of breaks.

Notice when you’re getting close to your “emotional capacity.”: Discipline yourself to capitalize on those moments by completely separating from the things that are causing you distress. In these moments, solely fill your mind with images, thoughts, and experiences that bring you joy, peace, and fulfillment. Here are some ideas:

Allocate 5-10 minutes to a soothing visualization endeavor: Close your eyes, and imagine you’re in a place or experience that has or could bring you considerable happiness and quiet. Use all of your senses as possible to make this scene as vivid as possible.

Devote at least 10-20 minutes to moderately intense exercise: This action releases critical chemicals in our body that fosters instant peace and joy.

This last one may sound strange, but I encourage you to hear me out: When any of us are in extreme distress, if we drastically change our body temperature, we immediately calm ourselves down. On a physiological level, when you do this, your heart slows down and your blood flow to non-essential organs is reduced. Your blood flow is sent to your brain and heart, which regulates your emotions. This is why when you jump into a very cold body of water, you instantly feel refreshed. So, you could hold an ice pack up to your head for 30 to 45 seconds at most. It has the same impact of making us feel rejuvenated.

I can assist you in much better navigating the stress and anxiety related to the holidays through a telehealth session through a HIPAA compliant video or phone session. Give me a call and we'll discuss how I can help. Jordan Zipkin, LMFT, at 954-391-5305.


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