Outreach: ‘Tis the Season—Or Is It?


Many of us typically view this time of year as a time of celebration and joy. For some however, even pre-pandemic, this may not be the case. During these colder and darker winter months, a significant number of us also experience stronger than normal feelings of malaise, sadness and lethargy, which often lead to depression and anxiety.  And the additional stress and strain of living out the holidays during a pandemic only serves to exacerbate negative emotions, including social isolation, grief and Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.).

During the holidays. we may be vulnerable to even more social isolation, especially due to COVID-19. This is one of the biggest predictors of depression. Additionally, many people become more keenly in touch with losses or the loss of a loved one, whether recent or long ago. And we are all aware of Seasonal Affective Disorder, a well researched area of concentration in mental health.

“OK, we get it,” you say. “This year’s holiday season is going to be very different.”

What can you do to navigate this uniquely 2020 holiday season in a mentally healthy way? Well, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, here’s a list of some mindful actions we can use to move through the season with less stress and more acceptance.

1. Accept Imperfection

We need to accept our celebrations as they are. Don’t set the bar too high, because when the dinner or gifts or decorations don’t live up to that expectation, we become incredibly disappointed.

Before you start preparing, acknowledge that things may not go exactly as planned. It’s OK if it’s not perfect. Imperfection is healthy and normal. Let good be good enough.

2. Don’t Lose Sight of What Really Counts

Regular holidays are hectic, whether it is traffic or long lines in the grocery store. Of course, these lines are already longer due to COVID-19 modifications. What can we do when we become overwhelmed with the hustle and bustle? Consider using these mindfulness tips:

Where does this fit in the grand scheme of things?

Can I use this moment of frustration as an opportunity to reflect?

Even if this moment seems stressful, can I find a way to make it pleasant?

3. Respond with Kindness

Remember that while you cannot change the way other people react to holiday stressors, you can control your response to these situations. Whether through empathy or by simply taking a deep breath, taking the time to inject kindness into a difficult situation may allow for a shift in the energy surrounding you and others.

4. Rethink Your Resolutions

We’re all ready for 2021, after the stressors of 2020. But try not to create resolutions that are too big to handle. If there are aspects of your life you’d like to improve, tackle larger resolutions in manageable steps throughout the year. Be aware of your internal critic, and let go of the negativity if you stray from your goals. And above all, start off 2021 by being kind to yourself!

Outreach is your community counseling agency; we are here to work with children, teens and parents as you navigate the uncharted waters of life’s challenges. We are here for you!

Outreach Teen & Family Services is a nonprofit, confidential counseling service. We offer programs to youth ages 5 to 21, parents and families, in a welcoming, supportive environment. 412-561-5405. This column is partially underwritten by the Mt. Lebanon Police Association.