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  • Heather Gibson, MA, LMFT

Holidays during COVID


The sunlight is disappearing earlier and earlier, the stores are displaying pumpkins and fall décor, the nights are finally feeling a little bit crisp. Ordinarily we would be starting our holiday planning right about now. Deciding whether to host, or which family member’s ‘turn’ it is this year. Whether we should change that recipe we always make, or stick with tradition. Looking at airfare, hoping to avoid that holiday traffic. Looking forward to hugs and gifts and the nostalgic smell of warm spices filling the home. So much is different this year, and on top of normal seasonal anxieties we may be feeling grief over everything that won’t be the same.

The holidays may have to be re-imagined this year, but if your homes can’t be filled with all of your loved ones, perhaps they can still be filled with small joys: the smells of autumnal traditions baking, nostalgic movies playing, your favorite songs, candles flickering. We hope that you will find a way to feel connected to traditions, and those you love - even if that means connecting across the wire. However you hope to spend the holidays, here are some tips to manage the emotions that may come with COVID being an invariable part of the season:

  • Try to make a plan ahead of time, deciding where you hope to spend the holidays, and with whom? Discuss this plan with friends and family.

  • It is ok to decline any plans that you don’t feel comfortable with. It is ok to say no, or to be selective with where you want to travel or who you want to have in your home. Practice boundary setting & assertiveness techniques.

  • Take breaks - If you ever feel overwhelmed or overstimulated, find a quiet room where you can be alone, close your eyes, take a nap or listen to music. Go for a drive or walk.

  • Connect virtually - Perhaps this year you can cook a recipe with a loved one, enjoy a holiday meal or even open gifts, but all over Zoom, Facetime, etc.

  • Talk with your therapist about scheduling sessions around the holidays. The holidays can be a very stressful time, so it is important to ensure that you have emotional support and/or 'homework' to focus on between sessions.

  • Journaling can be a great way to ground yourself, process recent events, and identify how you’re feeling. You can take a journal with you on your travels, or it can be a helpful bridge between therapy sessions over the holidays.

  • Cut out some stress by finding ways to simplify your to-do list. Perhaps you can utilize a grocery delivery service for holiday meal prep. In lieu of malls & postal trips, consider all of your gift giving via online shopping this year (wrapping can often be included on Amazon for example).


Written by: Heather Gibson, MA, LMFT



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