Living Well: Dealing with holiday stress in a pandemic

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark.– It’s the most wonderful time of the year, or at least it’s supposed to be. With recommendations and restrictions put in place on how we gather for the holidays, this could be stressful for people who are not able to celebrate with family.

“I think we need to make sure we are looking at safety first and defer some of those family gatherings,” says Dr. Charles Chamblee, Behavioral Services Director at Baptist Health.

From wearing a mask, staying at a distance, to celebrating virtually or apart altogether, we’re faced with tough decisions this year.

“I’ve heard lots of folks who want to share that same sentiment at different times of the year so they may choose to do Christmas in July,” he says.

Figuring out how to spend the holidays in a pandemic is causing worry, stress and anxiety in a season that’s supposed to be full of cheer. Baptist Health’s Dr. Charles Chamblee says to help put those to rest, people can start with looking at their diet, exercise, sleep and self-care.

“Those are four areas that we can use to gain some control of worry and anxiety in our lives,” says Dr. Chamblee.

Once you acknowledge and focus on improving those key areas, Dr. Chamblee recommends some free apps on your phone you can refer to, “PTSD Coach” and “Smiling Mind.”

“Breathing exercises, calming noises, a walk through of progressive muscle relaxation. Things like that, that folks can have in their pocket with them, if they’re seeing stress come up, just pop it out, put some ear buds in and there you go,” says Dr. Chamblee.

These are also helpful techniques for people dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression that relates to changes in the seasons and occurs during the same time each year. For most, it happens during the winter months. But Dr. Chamblee has this reminder, “Just because we traditionally celebrate holidays this time of year, doesn’t mean that would be the best time to do it this year.”

Dr. Chamblee also suggests calling your family and friends to check-in and see how they’re doing during these challenging times. For more information and to learn more about how you can get help, visit:  https://www.baptist-health.com/doctor/charles-chamblee-dr/

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