Coping through the holidays  

di Priscilla Pajdo del December 1, 2020

TORONTO - Typically, the holiday season brings a sense of comfort and togetherness, especially for people longing to reunite with family and friends. Under Covid-19 restrictions, the usual festive events will look very different.
This year, the Premier of Ontario, together with public health medical experts recommend limiting gatherings to people within your own household. This does not come as much of a surprise, given the rise in Covid-19 cases across the province. Other significant holidays have come and gone under the same recommendations. What are a few more? Except that, the separation from family and friends, especially during a time of year meant for celebrating together, may negatively impact one’s health.
Public health concerns and the health of your loved ones may amplify the usual pressures brought on by the hustle and bustle of the season. As well, some unwelcome guests – stress and depression – may intrude on families who scale back their celebrations to immediate members of their household. Following Covid-19 prevention measures, such as washing hands, wearing a mask and physical distancing may help reduce the spread of the virus, but they do not ease the symptoms associated with anxiety and worry. In fact, they may even add to negative feelings and emotions, especially during the holidays. Whether it is personal demands or financial strains, it is important to recognize the triggers and find solutions to help ease the burden.
Staff at the Mayo Clinic offer the following tips to help manage stress. Firstly, acknowledge your feelings. It can be difficult to force an emotion like happiness just because the occasion calls for it. If you are separated from loved ones, it is ok to feel sad. Reaching out in other ways, like a phone call or video chat, can help lessen the impact of isolation. Also, connect virtually with community groups and events or volunteer your time to help others in need. These can help lift your spirits and create new friendships.
Secondly, be realistic. Covid-19 has changed many aspects of our daily lives including the way we work, shop and socialize. The new safety measures and limits on social gatherings will definitely mean a holiday that looks different from the ones celebrated last year. Do not expect perfection; just find a different way to be festive. It can be tempting to buy happiness with gifts. When shopping for the holidays, stick to a budget. Financial stress can be a heavy burden, especially during the gift-giving season.
The latest job numbers indicate that about 1.8 million Canadians were unemployed as of the end of October – an improvement from the first lockdown in the spring, when over 3 million people were out of work. When struggling financially, it may be difficult to spread merriment, so consider alternatives to traditional store-bought gifts. Sharing a homemade recipe or creating a hand-made gift for a special person can be a heartfelt gesture. Another option, donating to a charity in someone’s name may have a positive impact on more people than intended.
Medical experts advise a variety of ways to help reduce one’s stress. We have heard them all before: eat healthy; maintain some physical activity as part of a daily routine; get plenty of sleep; and, avoid excessive tobacco, alcohol and drug use. The pressures associated with the holidays can take over and inflict undue distress on health and mental well-being.
Remember to take some time to pause and recharge. A brief walk or meditation and focused breathing may be enough to clear the mind and restore calm so one may continue to enjoy the company of those with whom you live.

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