The winter holiday season is a deeply meaningful time for many people. It is a season of joy, excitement, sharing happiness, gatherings, and showing loved ones that they are thought of or appreciated. However, even in a normal year, the holidays can also bring up negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, loneliness, and stress. We all know that this year brings the added challenge of a global pandemic which has placed us in positions of having to make difficult choices and sacrifices in order to protect ourselves and loved ones. The holidays are going to look different this year, but different does not mean that they cannot be just as special. Here are a few tips for maintaining emotional well-being and increasing the likelihood of holiday success:
1. Plan Ahead
Being proactive and making organized plans can reduce stress. Make a list of things you need to do and when you would like to have them done by. Think about the people you would like to gift or reach out to. Perhaps you may expand your circle this year to include more people. Staying socially connecting is so important during this time of physical distancing. Arrange to connect with those that bring you joy.
2. Be Flexible
Understand that although you may plan for things, something could happen to throw you off course. These are unprecedented times. Maintaining mental flexibility will allow you to more easily move in an alternate direction if needed. Rigidity and inflexibility will be more likely to result in stress and other negative emotions.
3. Keep Traditions
Traditions are customs that we do each year that are typically passed on through generations. Many families have traditions for the holidays that are quite significant and meaningful. At times traditions can connect us to loved ones we have lost. This year, we may have to get creative with how we can keep traditions alive. Or perhaps, it is a great time to create a new tradition. For example, you can find a fun virtual game to play with family at a distance. You could pick out a new recipe everyone can follow and then eat together virtually. Involve your family and brainstorm ways to keep, or develop new, traditions.
4. Maintain Self-care
Make time to take care of yourself. Exercise regularly, follow good sleep hygiene, eat well, and engage in hobbies that bring you pleasure. These are key ingredients to psychological wellbeing.
Your normal may be to have big celebrations with lots of homemade foods and neatly wrapped presents waiting to be distributed. Cut back where you can. For example, although it may be satisfying to cook for your family, this may be the year to order prepared food. Consider gift cards instead of trying to find that “perfect gift.” Take on what you can and aim for happiness, not perfection.
We may not know what to expect of the holidays this year, but with these strategies in mind, we can work to uphold the positive emotions the season can bring. If you do find yourself struggling, please reach out to a family member, a friend, or mental health professional for support.
Happy holidays to you and your families!
Dr. Andrea Tesher, Psy.D., is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist at Lukin Center for Psychotherapy, specializing in the treatment of adults with anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, sleep disorders, substance abuse, difficulties regulating emotions, and relationship problems. Dr. Tesher’s approach to treatment combines many elements of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and other evidence-based treatments. She works collaboratively with each client to understand how current thoughts, behaviors, and feelings are impacted by past experiences. She helps clients build on their own strengths and helps them to develop new skills to independently manage negative thoughts and feelings. She works with each client to determine the most effective techniques for achieving their goals. Dr. Tesher approaches her clients with patience, humor and a desire to create a warm, non-judgmental, and safe therapeutic environment that will foster change.
Dr. Tesher is a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional as well as certified in the treatment of Insomnia. She has completed extensive training in CBT, DBT, psychodynamic therapy, couples counseling, group therapy and psychological/neuropsychological testing in a variety of settings including outpatient clinics, hospital inpatient units, and college counseling centers. Dr. Tesher’s experience volunteering in emergency rooms as an advocate for survivors of rape and domestic violence has guided her research and career. She served as a member of a research team focused on women’s issues and specifically studied the impact of trauma on treatment outcomes for female inpatients at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. During her pre-doctoral internship, she had the privilege of working closely with veterans of all generations struggling with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse disorders, anxiety, and depression. She has practiced in an outpatient setting with private clients, as well as workers compensation clients. She provided individual cognitive behavioral therapy and relaxation training to adults with depression, anxiety, PTSD, head traumas, and chronic pain. Dr. Tesher earned her bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University and completed a master’s degree in general psychology at New York University. Dr. Tesher received her Doctor of Psychology at Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, part of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University.
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