Coping with COVID-19, stress, and the holidays

Posted at 5:10 PM, Nov 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-25 19:22:36-05

The holiday season is officially here, but throw in a pandemic, and it's definitely a different and more stressful year for many.

“The safety, health and mental health of our community should be the main focus as we plan our holiday events, gatherings, and meals,” said Travis Mickelson, MD, psychiatrist and associate medical director of mental health integration at Intermountain Healthcare.

“We want to try and limit exposure and transmission of the virus to keep people safe and make sure the hospital systems are not being overwhelmed, but at the same time the stress of it all tricks our brain to focus on the negative.”

Here are recommendations for having a safe and mentally healthy Thanksgiving:

  • Limit your group gathering and exposure risk: A low risk holiday still consists of the traditional dinner, but the CDC recommends keeping it to members who live in your house. A moderate risk dinner would be to have a small gathering outside for dinner with friends and family.
  • Think of others and serve others: A change in traditions can bring stress and add to depression with missing the extra family members. But Dr. Mickelson suggests one way to help is to try and keep those connections and traditions intact as much as possible. He suggests considering preparing holiday meals and have them delivered to family and friends, especially those at higher risk of illness and to connect with others and find a ways to help others through altruistic acts.
  • Find other ways to connect: Being apart physically does not mean to be apart socially. Try holding a virtual Thanksgiving meal through video.
  • Express gratitude: Thanksgiving is also a time to express gratitude. Dr. Michelson suggests looking at what’s going right in our lives. “Look to the positive and challenge yourself for two weeks to find three positives every day that happened to you,” said Dr. Michelson. The “3 Good Things” challenge, he says can be little to large things - and if you do this, you can see the difference in your attitude and your gratitude.

It’s also important to address your mental well-being. Talk to your doctor or seek out a therapist. Intermountain has a free Emotional Health Relief Hotline, that is available daily from 10 am to 10 pm at 833-442-2211, where anyone can contact a specialist to talk through concerns and seek assistance.