Keeping in the holiday spirit during uncertain times

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The holidays are a time of joy but can also be very stressful, especially during a pandemic.

What are some things you can do to keep your stress levels down and your spirit up? We asked an expert, who says old rules for recharging and relaxing don’t apply this year.

“The losses – and these are both big and small. Many of us are forgoing traditional get-togethers and rituals as families. And so those are important losses. And there are bigger losses in terms of families who may have lost a loved one or someone who’s sick,” said Dr. Archana Basu, instructor in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital.

From travel restrictions to guidelines around gatherings, families are being forced to make tough decisions.

“This year is going to be particularly stressing because our family is in the medical field back in Michigan, our daughter-in-law. So it’s a little tough for us to get together. And we have grandchildren, so we’re going to have to take precautions,” said David Uhl of Cape Coral.

“My family is in Atlanta, and I’m not going because of COVID, because the family just wants to stay separate right now,” said Terri Greenberg of Lehigh Acres.

Basu says that those decisions can be draining. “A lot of decision fatigue. People have had to make a lot of tough choices around whether or not to travel, whom to see, how to celebrate, whether to celebrate.”

But there are ways to bring back the joy.

Basu says you should narrow down exactly why you enjoy certain traditions and use that to create new ones safely.

“We had a new granddaughter and we went and stood on the porch and my daughter-in-law and son held her up through the glass in the front door,” Uhl said.

“We’re just communicating with family the best we can. And hopefully getting together in the beginning of the new year when things get better,” Greenberg said.

Something else to keep in mind: what we eat and drink can impact our mental health. Keep an eye on your snacking and comfort food, and try to limit alcoholic drinks.

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