Holidays and Covid 19…Anyone Else Feeling Stressed?

As I sit here and compose this article, I am also writing out my grocery list for Thanksgiving. This is the first of many lists to come over the next week. We were one of the “lucky” families as we’ve all had COVID-19 so we are going to gather at my house. I know some will judge, but after having my dad hospitalized this fall it really made me realize how fragile life is, and being with those we love is most important.   

My pandemic fatigue hit an all-time high this week. I was leading professional development at a school I love with not only colleagues but also friends. I could tell the staff walked in quieter than usual. There wasn’t any buzz or excitement that break was only a week away. Of course, everyone had a mask on so it was hard to read their facial expressions, but I could just feel the tension in the air. I started the PD and was asking questions, as I like my learning to be interactive. No one, and I mean, no one would answer my questions. They just sat and looked at me or put their heads down. I tried to make them laugh and lighten the mood, but you could still hear crickets chirping in the background. As I left the building, I, too, felt defeated. 

At first, I kept questioning what I did wrong on my hour drive home. After talking to some teacher leaders from other districts and listening to a recorded superintendent zoom, I realized it wasn’t me nor was it just this group of teachers. I heard a superintendent say, “My teachers’ morale right now is where it usually is in March.”  My heart hurts for teachers this year more than ever. I can’t imagine all the extra work they are doing. My kids and I were home for a few weeks over Halloween thanks to COVID-19, and I was so impressed with how the teachers were teaching synchronously and asynchronously at the same time! I was also touched by their ability to quickly find ways around un-cooperating technology or recreating lessons on the fly.    

So with the added stress of a pandemic this year what are some strategies we can employ to not only help us survive but thrive during the holidays?  According to Northwestern Medicine, they recommend six tips to help with holiday stress. 

The first tip is to keep your healthy habits. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, stay physically active, and, of course, do not eat every Christmas cookie you see between now and the New Year!  (That is more a reminder for me :)) 

The next recommendation is to be realistic. Keep up those good emotional health habits you have built during Covid. Continue to journal, express gratitude, breathe deeply, etc. Whatever you have found to help you destress, continue, and maybe try something new. 

My favorite tip is to do less. Will anyone really miss out if there aren’t four different kinds of pies? How many presents do the kids really need? Didn’t we just learn during COVID that the small things are what matter most? 

Next is to reach out especially if you are struggling. Call a friend or schedule a zoom where you just catch up rather than always work.

Taking a walk is the fifth recommended tip. Nothing clears my head faster than a good walk with a friend or listening to a favorite podcast. (My favorite podcast that makes me literally lol is Smartless.) 

Lastly, the article recommends making small adjustments. For me this year, that means not worrying about making everything perfect, but rather just being present in the moment.

My wish for you and your families is that you find joy this holiday season. Don’t sweat the small stuff and stay healthy: mentally and physically!