Monday, January 18

How to handle holiday stress during COVID-19

Do you feel stress? You are not alone. Stress levels are increasing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the many disruptions in our daily lives.

The American Psychological Association recently reported that “we are facing a national mental health crisis that could have serious health and social consequences for years to come.” And it’s not just adults who feel it. The report reveals that our children “face unprecedented uncertainty, experience elevated stress, and are already showing symptoms of depression.”

Although a moderate amount of stress is normal, high levels of stress can be dangerous to your health and can contribute to serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, and depression. So be sure to keep a close eye on your well-being and that of your loved ones during the holidays.

True, there is no magic bullet to make stress go away forever, but we can take steps to help reduce stress. Here’s a list of tips that can lower your stress and lead to a more enjoyable holiday season.

  • Learn to recognize the triggers and relievers of holiday stress. Financial pressures and personal demands are two common triggers. Also, beware of unhealthy stress relievers. The stress of the holidays can cause some people to slip into bad habits like smoking, drinking, or overeating.
  • Give yourself a break. When doing things for others, it is easy to forget to take care of ourselves. If you feel stress increasing, take a break for a few minutes. Listening to soothing music, taking time to watch a movie, or just getting away for a short walk can give you time to relax and recharge.
  • Spend time on your health. In the rush of the holidays, don’t let your wellness get in the way. Try to maintain your normal sleep schedule, incorporate healthy foods, and exercise regularly. If you can’t find a 30-minute period to exercise, break it down into three 10-minute sessions spread throughout the day.
  • Check your health plan benefits. Some insurers, like UnitedHealthcare, offer behavioral health programs that can range from mental health care to substance abuse treatment, with the goal of helping improve your overall well-being. For example, Sanvello, which is free, offers clinically validated techniques and tools to reduce stress, anxiety and depression in one simple application. Sanvello can be downloaded for free from the app stores and you can confirm your eligibility instantly from the app.
  • Enjoy, even if it is virtually. In the flurry of festive activities, we sometimes forget what we’re celebrating, so remember to savor time with the people you love. If you or others you know cannot meet in person, use a phone or schedule a Zoom call to celebrate and spend time together. It is important to minimize any feelings of isolation.
  • Talk to your doctor. If you feel like you can’t control your stress, talk with your doctor, who can recommend a counselor who can help you find other ways to help reduce or manage the harmful stress in your life.

For more information on health and wellness, visit

–Dr. Don Stangler is UnitedHealthcare New York Medical Director

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