Coping with COVID-19 Tension during the Holidays

Are you scaling down, or cancelling, an annual holiday tradition due to COVID-19? A psychologist shares tips for navigating family tensions.

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CLEVELAND – The holidays can be stressful and on top of that, we’re dealing with a pandemic — which could cause even more tension, especially as we plan family gatherings.

“We’re seeing a lot of conflict and tension between family members about how to handle the upcoming holidays,” said Susan Albers, PsyD, a psychologist with Cleveland Clinic. “What’s really important is for families to clearly communicate ahead of time, way ahead of holidays, what kind of expectations they have. Their limits, their boundaries and what they need to feel safe.”

Dr. Albers said a lot of her patients have expressed feelings of guilt about skipping family parties this year.

She adds that there’s nothing wrong with wanting to protect your personal health.

The same goes for those hosting a family gathering – don’t be afraid to set boundaries for guests.

If you prefer they wear a mask, just politely let them know it’s for everybody’s safety.

“We create a lot of scenarios in our minds about how the holidays are going to play out and sometimes we create the worst case scenarios,” she said. “Remind yourself that they are possible but not probable and remind yourself about the positive things that holidays can bring you.”

Dr. Albers said the upside to everything going on, is that you can skip some of those normal responsibilities this year, like traveling or cooking a big holiday dinner.

Instead, she recommends trying to focus on relaxing.

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