Cognitive Behavioral Strategies

Lynne S. Gots, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist

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COVID and Holiday Stress

By Lynne Gots, posted on November 21st, 2020.

Thanksgiving is just a few days away.  The approach of the holidays this year has trapped many of us between the proverbial rock and hard place. How should we celebrate? Is it OK to let down our guard and see family if we’re all being careful? Should we get on a plane? Is it worth risking putting our older relatives in danger of infection in order to be together? 

If we were going strictly by the book, nobody would host or attend a Thanksgiving dinner. The CDC has advised us to avoid travel and not to spend time indoors with people outside our immediate household.  Even so, most families are deciding how closely to follow the guidelines, calculating—and perhaps underestimating—the risks involved. . 

We all want to hold onto cherished traditions and see the loved ones we’ve been separated from during these endless months of COVID.  And, yet…

There is no right answer. 

If you go ahead with your plans and get together with family for Thanksgiving dinner, you may feel guilty about ignoring the various governmental recommendations. And, even worse, you might have to live with the consequences if one of your parents or grandparents or aunts or uncles gets sick.

If you exercise the recommended caution and stay home alone or just with your immediate household, you will feel sad and lonely, and you may regret playing it safe when friends are posting pictures of their family get-togethers on social media.

Either way, you can’ t win.

Several of my patients with OCD have told me, “Now maybe people will understand how hard it is to live with OCD.”  The back-and-forth, the doubt, and the emotional distress many of us are going through right now as we try to decide how to spend the holidays mimic what those with OCD struggle with on a daily basis.

So how do we cope? Approaching an upsetting situation with an attitude of mindful self-compassion can make it more bearable. First, acknowledge that this turmoil is really hard. Then, connect with the “common humanity”: millions of people are sharing the same, challenging experience. Finally, treat yourself with kindness. Accept your decision, whatever it is, and remind yourself, “You’re doing the best you can.”

And think about next year when, with luck and the possibility of a vaccine, we all will be able to bring back our old traditions and appreciate them, perhaps even more than ever.

Posted in Acceptance and Mindfulness, COVID-19 Mental Health |

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This blog is intended solely for the purpose of entertainment and education. All remarks are meant as general information and should not be taken as personal diagnostic or therapeutic advice. If you choose to comment on a post, please do not include any information that could identify you as a patient or potential patient. Also, please refrain from making any testimonials about me or my practice, as my professional code of ethics does not permit me to publish such statements. Comments that I deem inappropriate for this forum will not be published.

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© 2008-2022 Lynne S. Gots, PhD. Photographs by Steven Marks Photography.