Sign up to receive a Free excerpt from the book



Holidays Were Easier Last Year!

Source: Preto Perola/bigstock

Like many of us, I’ve been thinking about the upcoming Holiday Season for 2021 and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our experience.  Holidays are joyous for some but not all.  It’s a season that’s tough to deal with when you’re depressed, fatigued, ill, uninterested in the busy-ness of the season and the smiles on other’s faces.  This is especially true if you have extended family or friends who expect you to join them in holiday activities.  Their enthusiasm and high energy can be overwhelming, sometimes oppressive, when you’re struggling so just to keep it together day-to-day.  Getting together may feel like an obligation and not a joy of the season and you may dread the interactions, doing it for “the sake of the family,” then feel guilty for having those feelings, afraid they’ll think you’re not appreciative of including you in their plans.  If you do attend a seasonal event while grumpy underneath, you may feel like a fraud for even showing up.  Or you might stand back, miserable, watching others appear to laugh and frolic. Or maybe you’re alone during the holidays.

Holidays tend to have high expectations coming from ourselves and others.  These are an artificial set of standards that you impose upon yourself, based upon some unreachable ideal in a magazine, TV or what your great-grandmother was said to have done.  It often begins with a “should” list.  I “should” do this or go to that function or get that gift.  I “should” prepare a holiday feast for my family or make a gift like Martha Stewart!  Beware of the word “should.”

Holidays bring pressure to put on a cheery disposition around others. Pressure to take on an overload of responsibilities, cooking, entertaining, shopping in crowded malls or making holiday-related gifts for loved ones, or pressure to attend all the many holiday functions at work/school or with friends/family.  Trying to reach these unrealistic expectations will only bring you feelings of guilt, disappointment and more stress, not pleasure.

On top of all of this, 2021 brings a new stressor related to the pandemic and family gatherings. It was easier last year – our choices were yes and no, mostly no.  Now it’s yes, no, maybe, are you vaccinated?, booster?  Indoors? Outdoors?  There’s still a lot of uncertainty around this illness and the fact that the numbers are rising again, that vaccinated people can also become infected, that the potency of vaccines can wane in older people, requiring a booster.  Parents are being extremely cautious about exposing their children to the virus at school or in playgroups versus having them vaccinated, at least until more vaccine safety and efficacy data are available.

Many will find that friends and family members may not share their beliefs on the covid-19 pandemic and have a different understanding of both the illness and vaccination.  People get information from many different sources, and some of their beliefs or interpretations might be passionate but not accurate.  This is not the time to argue about it.  You have to take care of yourself and your immediate family and be safe.  This might mean that, if you do attend family gatherings, consider wearing a face mask, keeping a six foot distance, follow aggressive handwashing, or remaining outdoors.  You might want to get covid tested a day before and one week after the event, even if you don’t have any symptoms. Home testing kits are fairly accurate and a good place to start.

So what should one do? That’s a personal decision that depends on the health status of the person and their family members, and their comfort level. Sit for a moment and think of the facts. How close are these people to you?  How often do you see them?  Would your attending a function place anyone at risk?  In some situations you might decide to politely bow out of the get-togethers this year, especially if the visit involves traveling to see family in close quarters on a bus, train or airplane. Or limit contact to a small gathering of immediate family members, and look forward to another year for larger festivities.

Be prepared that your decision might not sit well with others, so make sure you reassure them that you love them and want to see them but that you have to limit your contact this year.

For those who are balancing depression or another mental health condition, think about where you are with your mental illness, and what you can realistically do now for yourself and your family.

  • Take care of yourself. Maintain a regular schedule of daily activities, including diet/nutrition, sleep, exercise, and self-care. Try relaxation and self-soothing techniques.
  • Make an effort to connect with your own circle of friends, no matter how small.
  • Limit your exposure to any stressful or toxic activities, events or person(s).
  • Enjoy the holiday food but don’t over-eat or drink and be sorry later.
  • Set out small goals for your holiday season, ones that are attainable. Break each one down into small steps.  Create your own traditions.  Keep it all very simple and you and others will enjoy it more.
  • Pace yourself, do what you can realistically do this year and learn to say “no” if necessary without feeling guilty.

If you’re alone at the holidays this year, remind yourself that there are others who also have a small, not large, network of family and close friends to support them.  Try to distract yourself.  Keep your body and brain busy.  Do something – go for a walk, or clean out that old junk drawer!  Reach out and help someone else.  Use humor to distract your mind – a funny book or movie can get you through these times.

Stay well!


This entry was posted in Living with Depression, Stressors. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.
  • Subscribe to the Blog

    Sign up to recieve the blog right in your inbox and receive a free excerpt of Reconnecting after Isolation: Coping with Anxiety, Depression, Grief, PTSD, and More
    • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

  • Blog Categories

  • Archives


To view the content on
you must agree to our
Privacy and Terms of Use
by clicking “I agree”

I AGREE Decline