Combat Stress While You Celebrate This Season

Sarah Borish, PhD
November 26, 2020
4 min read

We blinked and the holidays are here. (Thanks 2020).

Even during a “normal” year, the holidays can be stressful. So is it really a big surprise we’re all feeling a little discombobulated as we learn to navigate this unprecedented season (on top of managing the anxiety and intricacies that come with dealing with an ongoing global pandemic)?

That’s why we’re offering these tried-and-true tips to help cope with holiday stress in the months ahead and beyond.

Ways to stave off stress this holiday season:

Unplug and unwind.

We know, we know. You’re feeling socially isolated as it is, plus you have to-do’s to tackle and emails to reply to…the lists go on. However, the simple act of turning off ALL your screens can go a long way when it comes to helping reduce stress.

A few off-screen activities to help keep stress levels down:

  • Walk it out. A brisk walk gets your blood flowing, gives you a Vitamin D bump, and can reduce feelings of apprehension in the short-term. Make it a habit to further stamp out ongoing anxiety! Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your brain- it improves mood, cognition, and overall well-being. Those benefits come even with low-intensity exercise like walking.
  • Soak in the tub. A warm bath not only gives you a few minutes of alone time, but it can also help your skin release endorphins that naturally wash away stress. We recommend adding a couple of cups of Epsom salts for a healthy dose of magnesium since many of us are deficient in the central nervous system-regulating mineral. If you don’t have a bathtub, make your shower a spa through scented soaps, music, and candles.
  • Limit your exposure to the news. While it’s important to stay informed, there’s no need to watch segments on repeat or read the same headlines over and over. Try capping news programs, social media, and websites to 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes after dinner. If you’re feeling the anxiety creep in after you consume news updates, give one of the other items on this list a try! Consider taking social news apps off your phone; the added step of going to a browser on your phone can give you a few extra seconds to reconsider whether it’s really a good idea to check.
  • Just breathe. Mindful breathing helps us manage emotions like anxiety, fear, and sadness. Try the following breathing meditation, then keep the exercise in your mental health toolkit through the holidays.

Belly Breathing Exercise

  • Stretch it out. You don’t need a dedicated yoga hour to release tension and bring your mind back to the present. During the holidays (and any stressful time), we love a good 2-minute stretch to melt our troubles away.

Follow along as we share some simple stretches.

RSVP NO — without regrets — if you don’t feel safe.

Feel empowered to take care of yourself and your well-being by declining invitations and holiday traditions that just make you uncomfortable this year. The 2020 holiday season simply isn’t like any other, and we must acknowledge that all festivities can’t and shouldn’t proceed “as normal.”

When you decline an indoor invitation, here are a few alternatives for celebrating with friends and family:

  • Replace high-risk family traditions with new lower-risk activities. For example, suggest an outdoor walk or a sledding excursion rather than the annual potluck.
  • Make plans to visit and connect with older members of your family via phone, a virtual gathering, or by communicating through a glass door or window. You can still be together safely this year…it just looks a little different.
  • Plan a fun celebration as a group for when it’s safe to be together again. This can be a cathartic and bonding experience, and it gives everyone something to look forward to.

Check out our detailed list of lower-risk ideas.

Give yourself the gift of virtual therapy.

We feel confident that these tips can help you stress less, but it’s 100% okay if they don’t do the trick. If that’s the case, Carbon Health is here for you. Our virtual care sessions allow you to access a provider from the comfort of your home. Even a brief virtual session with a therapist can be therapeutic and remind you that you’re not alone.

The entire Carbon Health team wishes you and your family a happy and safe holiday season!

Liked what you read? Learn more by downloading the Carbon Health app or visiting carbonhealth.com.

Sarah Borish, PhD

Sarah Borish, PhD, is a clinical psychologist at Carbon Health. She enjoys focusing on the brain’s relationship to behavior and its effects on mental health.

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