Coronavirus: Psychologists say to keep your family’s mental health in mind during the holidays

With new restrictions in place across many Canadian provinces, residents may not be able to get together outside of their own homes during the upcoming holiday break.

But experts say there are a few things you can do to make this season feel joyous, while creating new memories.

“We aren’t able to host our entire families over for Christmas dinners, (but) we still have to eat and so do our families, so what about having a virtual Christmas dinner?” said associate clinical psychologist Arnella Myers.

“We’re redefining how we have our holiday period so that in the next couple of years, we can have the opportunity to get together.”

Read more: Alberta’s new COVID-19 measures ban in-person dining, outdoor gatherings; retail to remain open

Myers noted it’s important to allow yourself to feel sad and grieve the loss of yearly traditions, but to understand there are ways to connect while apart.

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“It’s important to recognize that we are struggling with all the changes,” Myers said. “All the different things we have to deal with in this holiday period, and it’s also probable that children are feeling the same anxiety and sadness around not being able to engage in holiday tradition the way they usually do.

“Think of what our traditions and routines around this season usually mean, a lot of the things we do is more about connecting and community.”

Read more: Holiday stress may be ‘amplified’ by coronavirus. Experts urge mindfulness and planning

Experts also say to focus on what you can control, rather than focusing on what you can’t with COVID-19 safety protocols in place. and to avoid overcompensating with gifts or constant activities while trying to keep the family happy.

“If you celebrate the holidays or Christmas, I think it’s important to focus on the sentiment and this can be a wonderful teaching moment for children,” said registered clinical psychologist Dr. Rehman Abdulrehman. “We want to focus on what this time with family means for us.”

“We do have control over how we engage, we can still reach out to our friends our families,” Myers said. “Check in with them, wish them a happy holidays. We can still do some decorating, if that’s available to us. We can still have a special meal and these are things that are part of our usual routine.”

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Coronavirus: Manitoba to extend COVID-19 restrictions until Jan. 8

While everyone is at home and most of the attention is on others, experts say it’s important to take care of your own needs as well.

“Sometimes mom or dad or whomever your guardian is will need a 15-minute break by themselves,” Myers said. “Structure activities they can engage in this moment, or in this time, when you have time to do something for yourself.”

Myers said using technology to help connect and give you some time to yourself can also be a good technique to tap into.

“Structure activities where they are contacting other friends and family, so you also have some time to speak to someone about what’s going on for you and how you’re feeling.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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