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A COVID Holiday - Handling this Year with Grace and Joy

Lauren Arbolino   December 11 2020

You may be thinking, ‘How am I going to get through the holiday this year?’ ‘How can I go without seeing family and friends?’ ‘What about our traditions/celebrations?’ You are not alone. Read that again, you are not alone. You may feel as though you are, sometimes. Be aware of the signs that you may be having a harder time this year managing; it is OK. Some signs that you or a loved one may be struggling include:


  • Changes in appetite
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Inertia, lack of energy, difficulty motivating to do things
  • Longer periods of feeling discouraged or isolated
  • More easily irritated
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feeling withdrawn
  • Impulsivity or erratic behaviors


It may be difficult to enjoy activities that used to help you feel better. Don’t despair. Sometimes we experience these feelings for a short time; however, it may feel like it is happening for longer or more intense periods of time. There are ways to help shift your perspective, gain insight, and alleviate burdens you are carrying. What are some examples of small ways you can improve how you are feeling?


  • Be honest if you are struggling, this helps others know how you are feeling. Often this allows loved ones to share their feelings
  • Say no to activities or requests that are overwhelming right now. It doesn’t mean you can’t take on things in the future; however, it allows you to have needed space now.
  • Be careful with your spending. Even if your job has not been changed by COVID, money can be a source of stress, even when we least expect it.
  • End conversations that are toxic or difficult. You are allowed to set boundaries even if others cannot.
  • Honor and remember people with whom you can’t spend time. Whether people close to you have died or precautions due to the pandemic are keeping you more isolated, honoring, sharing memories, reading old letters, looking at pictures can help remind us of their presence and impact on our lives.


Everyone is dealing with a different way of celebrating this year. There are ways to celebrate with others, even if it is novel or unfamiliar.


  • Make a phone call
  • Write a letter
  • Send a care package
  • Play a game remotely
  • Video or zoom to see each other’s faces
  • Watch a tv show or movie at the same time
  • Explore remote options for volunteering either locally or globally
  • Engage in creative projects (music, arts, writing, photography, etc.)
  • Get active, either in your home or outside, take walks, do remote fitness classes, take a bike ride


There are resources and creative ways to not only manage the holidays in this new and unfamiliar climate but also enjoy them in a new way. If you are safely spending time alone, reach out in different ways to people to get connected; you’ll be surprised to learn that others need it too. If you are with small family or friends and still feel isolated, that is OK. Tell someone, ask to talk about so you can begin to feel better. You want to ensure you are taking care of your mental health, so you can take care of others, while you are also being mindful of the parameters to stay physically healthy and safe. Here are some good reminders:


1. When we are informed, we can feel good about the decisions we make regarding protecting ourselves and loved ones. The CDC outlines tips on gatherings and celebrations:

2. We can think about traditions, celebrate differently, be grateful and think about what we are missing at the same time:

3. Children process emotion differently depending on their developmental stage; the emphasis of what they are experiencing and need varies. Check out this site for age specific tips:

4. Holidays can be stressful during non-COVID times. Remember to use common strategies to help combat stress or depression symptoms such as typical healthy habits: and

5. We may have a celebration that we need to plan differently, how can we do it safely? Johns Hopkins outlines some suggestions for scenarios such as birthdays, seeing out of town guests, weddings and more:

6. If you do need to seek assistance, several organizations and groups are available to help. Check this link for a list of references:


Remember to reach out when you get discouraged or need support. Creating new traditions doesn’t have to mean leaving honored celebrations behind forever. This year may look different; embrace that and practice grace with your friends, loved ones and yourself. Volunteering, sharing and connecting with others is a good way to stay involved. Getting outside, whether you live where it is cold or warm, is good for overall health. New activities and practicing good self-care habits can inspire and lift spirits, which improves emotional and physical health.


Call the NAMI Helpline at 800-950-6264 M-F, 10am to 6pm EST or if you are in crisis, text “NAMI” to 741747 for 24/7, confidential, free crisis counseling.

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