December 22, 2020
Managing Negative Emotions During a Unique Holiday Season

The holiday season is often referred to as the most wonderful time of the year, but for many of us it’s also the most stressful time of the year. A survey released in 2019 found that 88% of Americans say that end of the year holidays are the most stressful time on their calendar.

In 2020, we’ve seen stress and anxiety rise as a result of the COVID-19 virus. More than 50% of adults polled in a recent survey say that their mental health has been negatively impacted by COVID-19 and 12% say their alcohol or substance use has increased.

Now, in the midst of the holiday season, COVID-19 cases are at its highest levels in the United States since the pandemic started. Americans are being asked to cancel traditional gatherings, avoid travel and stay home – uprooting those cherished moments that make the end of each calendar year so special and bright.

While hope is on the horizon with the start of vaccine distribution, this 2020 holiday season will be unlike any other. Many of us are feeling negative emotions due to isolation, postponed yearly traditions and gatherings with loved ones, which can lead to negative actions like substance abuse.

“We expect that level of anxiety and depression is going increase as things go on with the pandemic, especially during the holidays,” Lois Hochstetter, assistant director for Community Treatment Resources of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS). “It’s important to anticipate and understand the many things we can do to combat those feelings.”

We know the 2020 version of the holidays won’t be the same, so preparing for the possibility of negative emotions can help us cope in healthy ways. Below are some tips from the Ohio Opioid Education Alliance and OhioMHAS.

Tips for Combating Negative Emotions During the Holidays

  • Focus on the Positive: Most of us will not be spending the 2020 holidays in an ideal fashion, but focusing on the parts of our lives that remain positive can help us make the most of this time of year.
  • Avoid Things that Trigger Negativity: If we know there are parts of our lives that can bring about negativity, recognize what they are and avoid them altogether, particularly during the holidays. Negativity can often be triggered by certain people, places or substances. It’s particularly important, if we’re feeling down, to not abuse substances.
  • Center Your Mind: Anxiety and stress can hijack our minds and take it to a negative state. Use meditation techniques or prayer (depending on your faith) to keep your mind in a place of positivity, hope and appreciation.
  • Stay Connected with Family and Friends: In a normal holiday season, many of us would be spending time with people we love. While those physical connections will be limited this year, many of us have access to technology that allows us to share moments with family and friends in a virtual setting. Take advantage of those tools to make the best of the holidays.
  • Exercise: Working out is one of the best ways to benefit your body and mind. Find a way to move your muscles as much as possible.

Protecting ourselves from negative emotions is critical, but not all individuals have the tools to take these steps on their own. Helping family members, friends and others during a time of stress and anxiety can make such a positive difference in their lives. A lot of this can be accomplished with a simple text or phone call.

Helping Others Combat Negative Emotions This Holiday Season

  • Identify Individuals to Connect With: Consider who might be alone, or particularly susceptible to stress this holiday season and find a way to get in touch. Simply showing you care enough to call or connect can brighten anyone’s day. If you cannot get ahold of someone to talk to, mailing a written letter or even an email of care can help brighten their mood.
  • Be a Good Listener: If someone decides to share how they are feeling, listen to them without judgment. Sharing emotions with one another can be a calming tool for anyone.
  • Maintain Humor: Laughter is one of the best ways to fight any negative emotion. Joining a Zoom call with holiday antlers or quoting a funny movie can be great ways to change a negative into a positive.
  • Games or Play Time: For parents whose children don’t often share their feelings verbally, taking time to interact through games or play sessions can give you insight into how they’re feeling.

Additional Resources for Emotional Support

Ohio CareLine – 1-800-720-9616

For anyone needing support during the holidays and beyond, the Ohio CareLine is a toll-free emotional support call service. Anyone can use the service to talk with behavioral health specialists 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Crisis Text Line – text 4HOPE to 741 741

Individuals looking for support, but prefer to text instead of call can use the Crisis Text Line. The line is a free, confidential service that connects individual counselors within five minutes, 24/7.