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Celebrating the holidays during COVID-19
Mental Health

Celebrating the holidays during COVID-19

By Karole Shorter, LCSW, CEAP, EAP Supervisor
Posted: November 30, 2020

2020 has been especially difficult as we adjust to a “new abnormal." Our holiday celebrations at home and work will look quite different this year due to various changes brought on by the pandemic.

If your job has decided to forgo the annual holiday office party due to safety concerns, you are not alone. According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas — which conducts an annual survey of human resources professionals on their company’s holiday celebration plans — about 55% of 189 companies surveyed decided against having a celebration this year. Others are finding creative ways to have virtual celebrations as some employees continue to work from home.

The holiday season has historically been a difficult time of year for some. This year we’re all facing unique challenges during the global pandemic that may be increasing our stress levels.

You may be grieving the loss of a job; inability to connect with family, friends or religious organizations; missing special events such as graduations, weddings or vacations; and adjusting to drastic changes to your daily routine and way of life that usually bring comfort.

You may even feel a sense of guilt for grieving over losses that don’t seem as important as loss of life. All losses are significant, and there is no right or wrong way to experience it.

It’s important to allow ourselves to acknowledge our feelings and find healthy ways to manage and adjust as we move forward. 

It’s easy to focus on all the things we can’t do, but I want to encourage you to focus on the things that can still happen safely as we celebrate this year.

Gratitude is an effective coping skill that helps us broaden our perspective. Some people make a habit of starting or ending their day by reflecting on all the things they’re grateful for; this is a great time to get into the habit if you haven’t already. It can be practiced anywhere and doesn’t cost anything. You can also strengthen relationships by choosing to share your gratitude with others. If you find yourself falling into negativity, try reflecting on the things you’re grateful for to highlight the things your struggles may be overshadowing.

Health experts are recommending that we don’t have large gatherings indoors, especially as the number of COVID-19 cases surge and the flu season is underway. Being separated from your loved ones during the holidays can be hard.


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I made the difficult decision not to visit my family in Florida this year, so I know what it feels like. If you’re struggling with the reality that your holiday celebrations will be different this year, here are some ways you can reduce your stress:

  • Make time for self-care. Take regular breaks; get plenty of rest; and consider if the choices you make bring you joy.
  • Practice mindfulness meditation. You can google websites and apps to help guide you.
  • Stay connected with loved ones. Zoom parties have become quite popular during this time.
  • Get active. Take a walk or utilize that exercise equipment that’s been gathering dust at home.
  • Talk it out. Sometimes just voicing your worries with a family member or friend lessens their power.  If your worries start to impact other areas of your life, consider talking to a professional. 

We all look forward to a time when we’ll be able to gather with family and friends safely. It’s important to follow guidelines now so we’ll be able to be with loved ones in the future. 

If you’re struggling to cope during this time, EAP is here to help.  Methodist Healthcare EAP is staffed with licensed counselors who offer free, confidential support for various issues. Please call 901-683-5658 if you or a member of your household would like to schedule an appointment.

All sessions are being conducted via telehealth due to the pandemic.

Wayne Hyatt

Karole Shorter, LCSW, CEAP


Karole Shorter is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Employee Assistance Professional. She is a member of the Employee Assistance Professional Association and active in the community. She has a bachelor’s degree in social work from Florida A & M University, and master’s degree in social work from Florida State University. Karole has counseled children and adults in outpatient settings for twenty years, and was the social services director for a nursing home in Florida before moving to Memphis with her family in 1999. She joined the EAP staff in 2006, and was promoted to EAP Supervisor in 2019. Karole enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, and traveling.

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