Coping with the Holiday Blues in 2020
Palm Springs, CA (December 17, 2020) -- The holidays can be a difficult time, and this year COVID is compounding feelings of stress, anxiety, and sadness for many in our community. Paying extra attention to our emotional health is important this holiday season, says Dr. Jill Gover, DAP’s behavioral health manager.
“For many LGBTQ+ folks, the holiday season is a trying time, especially if you are estranged from your biological family,” says Dr. Gover. “Many of us have opted for chosen family, and this year we cannot be with our chosen families, either.”
Having a plan for how you will spend the holidays is important, even if you are isolating at home to keep safe.
Get started by acknowledging your feelings.
Feelings of discontent are normal but dwelling in denial is dangerous.
It’s normal to feel sad if you cannot be with loved ones this year. It’s also normal to swing from feeling happy and excited about the holiday season, to feeling sad and disappointed.
“This year the holidays will definitely feel bittersweet,” says Dr. Gover, who wants to remind everyone:
It’s important to express your sad feelings.
If you don’t, says Gover, they can bottle up inside you. If you try to be stoic about it and you keep saying “it’s fine, it’s fine,” the difficult feelings will seep out in other ways that may be harmful to you.
Don’t pretend to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
“It’s OK to acknowledge there’s some sadness here as well.” Celebrating the holidays will look different this year, and due to social isolation, stress and uncertainty around the pandemic, it’s a difficult time.
This holiday season, things will be different, “and that’s OK,” says Dr. Gover. Her advice is: “Be realistic and let go of previous expectations.”
Things to keep in mind:
- The holidays don’t have to be perfect
- It’s OK to change your annual ritual to reduce stress
- Recognize that the new normal is not the same as the old normal
Strategies to work through the holiday season that anyone can use are:
Set Aside Differences
Accept family and friends as they are. Recognize that others are experiencing holiday stress and depression, too.
Stick to a budget
You don’t have to overspend to compensate for not being with the ones you love, especially if it will create a financial crisis later for you.
Try these alternatives:
- Donate to charity- nonprofits need our help right now
- Give homemade gifts
- Instead of individual gifts for each family member, consider just one gift for the entire family to use together. This will reduce stress.
Plan Your Holidays
Decide how you want to spend your holidays. “Think about how you want to spend the holidays now, so they don’t sneak up on you,” says Dr. Gover. “You don’t want to wake up on the special day and feel bereft.”
If alone, plan to do something special. This could include setting up a structured time for a Zoom visit with loved ones, taking a hike, watching the sunrise, or making a special meal.
Learn to Say No
“It’s so important to set limits.” If you feel vulnerable or overwhelmed, it’s OK t to say “no” to an event.
Stay away from people, places and things that are not emotionally or physically safe
Keep healthy habits
Don’t forfeit what you’ve been doing during this pandemic to keep yourself healthy.
- Get plenty of sleep
- Maintain a regular exercise routine
Don’t Forget Seasonal Affective Disorder
We are in the darker part of the year, with the days ending earlier. Less sunlight can cause Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)—health experts warn us that these symptoms are worsening due to the required isolating we all have to practice. Read more about SAD here.
Take a breather—create enough time for self-care.
Give yourself downtime
- Take a walk
- Listen to soothing music
- Do a guided imagery relaxation
- Read a “fun” book
- Take a bath
- Play with your pet
- Meditate or do yoga
About Therapy at DAP
Desert AIDS Project is proud to offer in-person psychological services, as well as Virtual Visits and phone visits via your laptop, tablet, or smartphone. If you or someone you know would like to find out more about therapy at DAP, please call (760) 992-0450 or log on to daphealth.org.
About Dr. Jill Gover
Dr. Jill Gover leads a team of compassionate and competent California licensed clinical psychologists who are ready to help our community.
Dr. Gover is passionate about social and environmental justice advocacy and LGBT political activism and she has volunteered with various political causes and campaigns such as the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Human Rights Campaign, and Equality California. Learn more about Dr. Gover here.
About DAP Health Center
DAP Health Center (DAP) is a humanitarian health center in Palm Springs, CA serving over 8,000 people, offering medical and mental healthcare, STI testing and treatment, dentistry, pharmacy, and lab. A variety of wraparound services enable patients to experience optimal health, including social services, support groups, alternative therapies, and other health and wellness services. Excellent HIV care is provided by the largest team of specialized clinicians in the area.
DAP’s sexual health clinic offers STI testing and treatment, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), and HIV and HCV testing. DAP’s Get Tested Coachella Valley campaign, the nation’s first region-wide free HIV testing and access to care initiative, was recognized by the White House for helping to bring about an AIDS-free future. DAP has earned a “Four Star” rating from Charity Navigator for the twelfth consecutive year – landing DAP in the top 6% of nonprofits rated. The distinction recognizes that we exceed industry standards in terms of our financial health, accountability, and transparency.
Visit www.desertaidsproject.org to learn more.