Does the underlying hum of stress buzz in your brain as the newscasters rattle off the latest virus numbers?
Does your stomach drop with a roller-coaster induced panic when you think about the holidays?
Does the thought of a Zoom Thanksgiving make you want to curl up and cry into your gravy?
Besides the usual stress of buying, decorating, and baking, the 2020 holiday season brings more fear than cheer.
According to Michelle Curtze, a Licensed Professional Counselor, the holidays can be stressful; "holidays bring up losses."
Whether that is a physical, economic, or emotional loss, the holidays amplify these feelings. COVID has exacerbated our stress. We are looking through the magnifying glass at not only personal issues, but we are taking global problems to heart.
As people rush to buy toilet paper and mashed potatoes, mental health may not be at the forefront of the COVID crisis. Yet, along with the virus numbers, anxiety and depression have escalated.
"Not surprisingly, the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic downturn have taken a toll on the mental health of adults of all ages in the U.S. In July, a majority of U.S. adults 18 and older (53%) said that worry and stress related to coronavirus has had a negative impact on their mental health, up from 39% in May, according to a recent KFF tracking poll. Similarly, among older adults (ages 65 and older), close to half (46%) in July said that worry and stress related to coronavirus has had a negative impact on their mental health, up from 31% in May"(KFF.org).
How do we turn this turkey around and make the most of this holiday season without the added stress of spreading a viral load?
"My job is to teach coping skills," Curtze states. When there is an overload of news, statistics, and misinformation, it is the individual's responsibility to "walk away from all that." Curtze stresses the importance of "social responsibility."
Finding a group of like-minded people who share hobbies and interests is a great way to stay social and supportive.
Curtze advises having the mindset of "we are all in this together," and let's "find a way to make it work." Placing a more positive spin on your outlook turns the statistics into something digestible.
But how do we stay positive?
Curtze's suggestions are ones we have heard before, but now, more than ever, these ideas are worth putting into action.
Try This Today:
Stay single focused. Be mindful and focus on one task for the day. Curtze's example was self-care. Focus on doing things that are just for you - and if your mind wanders, bring it back to self. It's the "put your oxygen mask on first" theory. If you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to take care of anyone else, Curtze admonishes. This isn't limited to self-care. Focus on one task for one day.
Be present. Turn the television off, look away from Twitter, Facebook, and the bombardment of social media. Clouding your brain with input diminishes the ability to see the sunshine.
Get outside. Curtze notes that even on Erie's cloudiest day, that sliver of light that the body absorbs decreases anxiety and increases coping skills. "Exercise and light," she stated again, every day.
Get good sleep. Even for me, this is a tough one. Thoughts pop up at 2 am, songs run through my mind at midnight, but according to Curtze, establishing a healthy sleep routine is crucial. Eliminating technology before bed will increase the body's ability to reach REM.
"This isn't a constant state," Curtze adds. According to CNN, USA Today, and all major news outlets, several vaccines are right around the corner. We are living in a "moment in time," one where we need to adapt and work with the virus and what we know about it.
For this holiday season, the stress of soggy stuffing might take a backseat to spreading infection.
The search for that just-right gift under the tree may not be top on your list.
As Curtze says, "this too shall pass." She encourages her clients to "not attach meaning to everything." Thanksgiving is just a day that will come and go. The traditions are what have the meaning. The beliefs you uphold with your family are where the values lie. Adapt to the difference and create something new.
Finally, Curtze says, "Instead of looking at what you've lost, think of what you've gained."
I realize this is a bit of a Pollyanna, glass-half-full perspective. The economic struggles, mental health issues, and social aspects of this pandemic are not lost on me. The threat of shut-downs, college kids returning, and businesses closing is real and exhausting. The exhaustion is real. The overwhelm is real, and that is precisely why I wanted to broach the subject of mental health. Curtze finished our interview by adding - no one is alone. Talk to a therapist, a friend, call for help.
If you are struggling during this time, please call Crisis Services,
814-456-2014 or 1-800-300-9558.
Operators on call 24 hours/day
OR go to your local Emergency Room
Love and Luck,
For a lighter side story - check here.