There’s no denying it, things are different this year, and not for the better. We’ve quarantined, socially distanced, missed major milestones, and given up many of our pastimes, all in the name of health and safety. Now, as we move through the major family-centered holidays, many are reaching all-time psychological lows as we continue to keep our distance.

It’s been close to a year since Covid-19 turned our lives upside down. Whether we’ve wanted to or not, we’ve all been forced to make changes. These changes and the fear that accompanies the threat of an unseen enemy has caused spikes in depression and loneliness across all ages, geographies, and socio-economic boundaries.

Holidays, which can trigger depression for some in the best of times, are now set to exacerbate these problems for many. Which makes it a good time to stop, take a close look at yourself and those you love, and make sure you’re doing all you can to stay healthy and connected.

We’re all in the same boat – so why is this so hard for me?

There’s some small comfort in knowing that you aren’t alone in the challenges and discomfort our current state is causing. But small is the key word here.

It’s not uncommon to try and minimize or dismiss our own feelings of upset by saying, “Everyone’s dealing with it,” or “Other people have it worse.” While both those statements are true, when it comes to your own mental health trying to benchmark yourself against others isn’t healthy and just doesn’t work.

Everyone has their own “normal” and their own balance. People bend and break at different points and for different reasons. Just because your bestie seems to be taking things in stride doesn’t mean you should feel bad, guilty, or ashamed because you’re struggling.

And, frankly, our boats are not all actually the same at all. Everyone has unique circumstances and different psychology. For some of us the idea of not seeing family during a time generally reserved for that is hard to bear. For others it’s the comfort provided by social interaction that we miss. For others still, the mental stress of potentially getting sick or getting someone else sick weighs heavily. And each one of these mindsets can be met with the opposite position, even among people who are close to one another.

If you are struggling, it’s important to remember not to judge yourself against others. Although there have been other pandemics, there is no modern precedence for what we are collectively experiencing, and everyone is responding differently.

So, just how do you go about surviving the holidays during a pandemic? Check out the tips below to help you get through things from now until January and beyond.

Let it be different. Things are different right now, so let them be.

They won’t always be this way, so try to look at one year of different as an opportunity you won’t get again. A guy I met with yesterday is being conscious about appreciating the extra time with his kids that working from home brings. He’s even walking her to school each morning now that she’s been allowed to go back in-person. This is something he may not be able to do at this time next year.

Keep what makes you happy, ditch what doesn’t.

Just because you may not be with extended family or attending holiday parties doesn’t mean you have to give up the traditions you love. Decorate with the things that make you happy, make the cookies you love, watch the movies, write the cards. Or don’t. If you need a break from all that, this is the year to take it with no guilt.

Find something to look forward to.

There’s an underlying feeling that we’re all waiting for something. A vaccine, normalcy, positive changes in the world – whatever it is, the lack of tangible dates and certainty of expectation can cause anxiety. So, find something specific to look forward to that is within your control.

Create some surprises.

One of the things we love the best about the holidays is being able to give to others and create smiles on the faces of those we love. There’s no reason you can’t do that now, and it’s a perfect time to do it in unexpected ways. Start sending heartfelt letters, make something for a neighbor, send flowers, order dinner to be sent to a loved one – it doesn’t have to be big or expensive, just unexpected and thoughtful.

Open up to someone.

Don’t try to bury how you feel. If you’re sad, anxious, depressed, or lonely, tell someone. It can be as simple as answering honestly when someone asks, “How are you?” Tell them, “Not that great.” There’s a strong chance they’re having similar feelings and you can each be a comfort to the other. Remember, even though we all experience things differently, we are all going through the same thing. Get unstuck.

Finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning? Staying in your pajamas all day? Why not, right? When you can rollover in the morning, turn your computer on, and effectively be at work, it’s easy to get stuck in unhealthy routines. Time to get unstuck and force yourself into more involved, healthier habits. Shower, get dressed, go outside, walk around, see other people, look at holiday decorations. Just find ways to feel connected to more than your pillow or home office.

The holidays present a uniquely difficult time in our current environment. Even if you feel “okay” it’s good to take extra care of yourself right now. Sometimes you don’t realize how close you are to your limit until you’ve gotten there.

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