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Avoiding seasonal stress – Advice for surviving holiday season during pandemic

Written by Contributor. Posted in Featured, Health & Wellness

Published on November 18, 2020 with No Comments

by Steve Euvino

‘Tis the season for seasons. Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Our Lady of Guadalupe, New Year’s, we have plenty of reasons for celebration. This year we also have COVID-19.

Some people call this the happiest time of the year. For others, it’s the most stressful season, whether it’s managing finances or relatives while being bombarded by earlier and earlier messages of “buy me, do this, travel there.” Add to this tension a virus that will seemingly not go away, and you have a holiday season like no other.

“These are different times,” said Reeta Wolfsohn, founder of Financial Social Work. “It takes courage to be real and vulnerable. Ask for help.”

A certified master social worker, Wolfsohn recently led a webinar on surviving the holidays financially. As part of the Center for Financial Social Work in Huntersville, N.C, Wolfsohn has been working to create holistic financial wellness programming.

Just as finances are tied to stress, Wolfsohn views spending as connected to one’s relationship with money and oneself.

Consumers plan to spend $997.79 — or about $50 less — on gifts, holiday items like food and decorations, and additional “non-gift” purchases for themselves and their families this year, according to a National Retail Federation survey of 7,660 consumers conducted in early October.Nearly all of that drop came from people who say they are hesitant to buy non-gift items for themselves or their families, despite holiday sales, the survey found.

Last Christmas, Wolfsohn said, 93.4% of Americans bought Christmas presents, and while some of them stuck to a budget, 21.5% of U.S. shoppers went into debt over holiday shopping.

Add to those numbers a depressed economy, with people unemployed, working fewer hours, or working several jobs due to COVID-19, combined with the usual expectations that gifts will be purchased or parties will take place. The 2020 forecast, Wolfsohn said, is for increased economic anxiety, as shoppers seek to spend less and save more.

Wolfsohn encourages people to accept the fiscal and physical ramifications of the coronavirus. “It’s very real, and it’s not going away,” she said.

Stay in the present, Wolfsohn recommends. Be realistic and stop romanticizing about the holidays, and, remember, there is always hope. Hopelessness, she said, “closes that door to change.”

Wolfsohn offered a number of self-help tips, including the following:

-            Find ways to spend time alone.

-            Start a stress journal.

-            Practice relaxation techniques.

-            Volunteer to help others less fortunate.

-            Look for avenues to laugh.

-            Create new ways to celebrate the holidays.

-            Focus on all the things going right in your life.

-            Think beyond COVID-19.

-            Let go of what is no more.

-            Spend less shopping time online.

-            Reach out to those who have lost a loved one.

-            Avoid toxic people.

-            Connect personally with those who matter most in your life.

-            Don’t let others interfere with or question your shopping choices.

-            Rethink your spending priorities.

-            Plan holiday spending ahead of time, and track that spending.

“This will be a holiday unlike others you have had,” Wolfsohn said, adding, “It’s important to believe the pandemic will end.”

CDC tips for holiday gathering protocol

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers the following tips for hosting holiday gatherings:

  • Host outdoor activities rather than indoor activities as much as possible. If you choose to host an indoor event, avoid crowded, poorly ventilated, or fully enclosed indoor space. Increase ventilation by opening windows and doors to the extent that is safe and feasible.
  • Host activities with only people from your local area and limit number of attendees as much as possible.
  • Provide updated information to your guests about any COVID-19 safety guidelines and steps in place to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Provide or encourage attendees to bring supplies to help stay healthy, such as extra masks, hand sanitizer, and tissues.
  • If you are planning in-person holiday gatherings with people outside your household, consider asking all guests to strictly avoid contact with people outside their households for 14 days before the gathering.

If you plan on holiday travel, the CDC suggests these safety measures:

  • Wear a mask in public settings, including public and mass transportation, at events and gatherings, and anywhere you will be around other people.
  • Avoid close contact by staying at least 6 feet apart (about 2 arms’ length) from anyone who is not from your household.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).
  • Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.

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