The pandemic is wreaking havoc on mental health during the holidays — here are ways to handle the stress

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El Paso, Texas (KTSM) — As we continue adjusting to the “new normal,” some people may find current public health orders a sigh of relief for the usual hustle and bustle of the holidays. But others may think of it as additional stress and may feel that social distancing during the holidays is contributing to more depression.

USA Mental Health First Aid wants to help anyone with physical distancing during the holidays. Whether someone is looking forward to a quiet holiday at home or sad that there won’t be a seasonal gathering, it’s important to ensure that people are watching out for each other and finding ways to take care of mental health during this unprecedented season.

The organization suggests staying connected to friends and family through group chats and video calls. A holiday-themed video call with your loved ones or a virtual movie night (like a Netflix Party) can help lift spirits.

Preserving holiday traditions makes a big difference. If you typically hang holiday lights or listen to holiday music, do it. If you buy holiday or winter-themed candles, buy and light them. If you look forward to a certain dish every year, try making it yourself.

Even though USA Mental Health First Aid encourages people to stay physically distant, you can stay connected to your community by volunteering or donating to a charitable cause this season. Food banks are always taking donations and many places can offer contactless drop-offs. Local organizations may even need help with delivering meals or volunteering for clothing drives. 

Practice self-care. Everyone’s self-care looks different, but some good places to start are getting enough sleep, exercising or journaling.

Limited social activities and physical distancing requirements mean many people will spend the holidays away from loved ones. This lack of social connection can have an effect on mental health and well-being. In fact, a 2020 Cigna National Survey found that 61 percent of working adults feel increasingly isolated, compared to only 12 percent in 2018. This year, it’s even more important to protect your mental health and well-being by finding ways to celebrate while staying safe.

Things may look a little different this year, and that’s OK. If you find yourself feeling especially sad, stressed or anxious, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Talk to a trusted friend or family member, mental health professional or faith leader for guidance as you navigate these unprecedented times.

These tips are also helpful to #BeTheDifference this holiday season while staying safe, happy and healthy.

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