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Psychologist offers ways to counter holiday stress

Posted on December 23, 2021 by admin

By Al Beeber
Westwind Weekly News

Christmas can be chaotic but with COVID-19 thrown into the mix it may be even more difficult.
Calgary-based psychologist and social worker Linda Hancock last week offered her perspective on it in a presentation to the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs.
Hancock said for many, Christmas can be stressful, including those who have experienced some kind of trauma in the season like the loss of a loved one.
With COVID, people have also experienced changes in lifestyle, losing the ability to travel or even do simple things like going to the gym. And these can add to the pressures of Christmas which some may dread because of the expectations of others, said Hancock, citing the example of a new wife who had seven invitations to Christmas dinner on the same day and she just wanted to spend it with her husband, creating new traditions of their own.
“We have our own expectations that can interfere with us enjoying the holidays,” Hancock said. “Too often, people may want to cook the favourite recipe of everyone coming for dinner and they don’t think about self-care. This prevents people from enjoying the holiday. And then there is the spectre of January when the bills come in.”
And with COVID impacting the holiday season again, there are negatives associated with it including fear which affects mental health. People are also dealing with changing COVID rules, new variants and the daily statistics.
People are getting mixed messages and don’t know who to trust because even scientists can’t agree, Hancock said. And she said some people are choosing self-isolation even when it’s safe to go out adding that seniors living alone in their houses are having the most difficulty. Many seniors will spend weeks without any physical interaction with others, she said.
COVID, however, does have some benefits, Hancock said. Among them people are gardening again, parents can see their children’s curriculum while they’re learning at home, books that were collecting on shelves are being finally read and CDs listened to. And she said people are checking in on their neighbours.
“All of a sudden, it raised values and an awareness we’re in this together. People started shovelling snow for neighbours and helping others with technology.”
To help get through Christmas, Hancock suggests several tips including:
1) Block out toxic messaging that steals your peace.
2) Choose inspiring and safe topics for conversation and don’t get into arguments.
3) Focus on fun by looking for adventures, even things like building a snowman or looking at old photos with grandchildren.
4) Keep Christmas simple. Be content with what you have.
5) Remember the soldiers from the 1914 Christmas truce who left their trenches to sing Christmas caroles together.
“We can enjoy peace, love, joy and hope if we just choose to reach out and bring them into our world,” said Hancock.

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