KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As people follow COVID-19 guidance from experts and avoid large gatherings, the holidays will look a lot different this year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended people not travel this holiday season and to celebrate with the people in their household. It's not unusual to feel down or have a case of the "blues" this time of year, and the pandemic restrictions could add to anxiety or stress.
However, experts say there are things people can do to make their days if not merry, at least a little brighter.
Vladimir Sainte is a licensed clinical social worker with Truman Medical Center Behavioral Health. He says the best thing people can do is be honest with themselves and acknowledge they miss the holiday traditions.
"There is power in awareness and this can help us pivot, to shift our thoughts so we are not lingering in self-defeating thoughts," Sainte said.
When people were asked what traditions they would miss most, some of the answers included going to church, going to the Nutcracker Ballet, and attending the plaza lighting ceremony among other things.
However, the most consistent response was spending time with family and loved ones.
Sainte says these are sentiments he's hearing from the patients he serves.
"Obviously the holidays are always a hard time for people because of loss and not being with specific loved ones. So, I feel as if it’s been magnetized because of the safety parameters," he adds.
According to Sainte, acknowledging your feelings is just the first step. He suggests coming up with new traditions or putting a twist on your old favorites.
"Whether that is setting up a Zoom Christmas party or maybe sending out some holiday letters or emails there are things that we can do," Sainte said. "Change is hard, right? But, it’s not always bad. There are still ways to celebrate the season with your loved ones, even if you cannot engage in those favorite traditions."
Finally, he says if you or someone you know is struggling day-to-day with the holiday blues, reach out for help.
"I advocate to all of my clients, reach out to the back of your insurance card and call that number and ask if you have providers who fall within your network," he said. Some employers also offer an Employee Assistance Program that makes mental health professionals, and other services, available to employees at little or no cost.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of self-harm or suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
Sainte says these are some signs you can look at for if you feel like you're going through depression:
- Any major change in behavior
- If you're sleeping more
- Feeling anxious
- Experiencing night terrors
- Not enjoying activities you normally would
This story originally reported by Caitlin Knute on KSHB.com.