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The holidays can be a time of joy, beloved traditions, and time spent with loved ones. It can also be a time of stress for many. The 2020 holiday season has caused many families to make challenging choices and face big emotions. My hope is that the following tips will provide you with encouragement and some practical advice for coping during this season:


  1. Breathe. If you notice tension in your shoulders, if you feel overwhelmed or your patience grows thin, remember to breathe deeply. Try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, slowly, for at least one minute. Deep breathing helps us to relax our bodies and sends blood to our brains to help us make good decisions. The beautiful thing about deep breathing is that it’s a coping tool we always have with us.
  2. Set realistic expectations. If you are concerned that you aren’t handling the twists and turns of 2020 very well, that is okay! As a global community, we’ve never dealt with this exact situation before. How can we expect ourselves to be experts at something we’ve never done? If we set realistic expectations of ourselves and of our loved ones, it can prevent irritability and resentment.
  3. Set limits. It can be difficult to set limits with others when we are concerned they won’t accept the limit, that they will be hurt, or that they will become angry. It can also be difficult if we are on the receiving end of a loved one setting a limit. In either situation, remember to be fair to yourself and to others, by sticking to your values and maintaining a calm demeanor.
  4. Make new traditions. If there are specific traditions or rituals that your family has maintained in the past that are meaningful to you, consider ways you can still recreate them in a different way. While circumstances may be different with social distancing, this year could offer an opportunity to do something new and different.
  5. Show yourself compassion. It can be easy to forget that we need the same understanding and kindness as we pour into others. Remember to speak kindly to yourself and lean into your support system.


I hope that the above tips help you to find comfort, along with some tangible ideas to improve your self-care. Remember, you are not alone! If you notice the need for additional support or significant difficulty during this time, consider reaching out to speak with a therapist.


-Jessica Smith, MA, LMFT

Owner, Encompass Hope, Llc