Holidays are a great time to connect with friends and family, however, stress during the holidays is real! This year with a pandemic raging on, there’s more stress during the holiday season than ever before. 

Here’s some more resources from our Corona series:

Maybe this is your first time being alone during a holiday, because you can’t travel to be with loved ones; it’s a really unique and challenging time (take it from me, I spent both Eid holidays on my own this year).  Maybe you are with your family or loved ones for the holidays, but looming shut-downs and quarantine can add extra layers of stress within a family unit or between partners.  Whatever your circumstance is, here are a few things to help you manage your emotional wellness during this time.

  • Traditions: Rituals and family traditions help make us feel connected to each other. They also give us something to look forward to, something that we know will give us joy. So, even if you are apart from family – try to keep up with family traditions. If you always wear a new pajama set for a family breakfast on Christmas Day, do that over Zoom or Skype (make sure to wear the pyjamas!). This is also a great time to start new traditions with yourself. If you’re alone, think of something new you want to add to your Christmas holiday tradition – whether it’s going to visit the Christmas tree in your city, writing a letter to yourself, or making a holiday-themed meal and drink. 
  • Find rituals of joy: Make time to find a few things to do that you do purely for the sake of joy, something you can get lost in. Things like puzzles, crosswords, or adult colouring pages are great for this! Think of the things that you used to love doing as a child, and then do them! 
  • Connect with loved ones through technology: Streaming platforms now allow for multiple people to watch the same thing together, but virtually, like Netflix Party or Amazon Prime Watch Party. Watch holiday movies with friends and family. AirBnb also offers a ton of fun virtual experiences you can go to as groups, such as virtual cocktail making or pottery (you can have the pottery kit for two sent to you by mail). Host a virtual game night with friends, and play conversational games like “we’re not really strangers”.

It’s okay if you don’t feel happy and joyful the whole time.

Stress During the Holidays is real, so make sure to start with yourself

If you are able to be with family or chosen family, you may still need a stress management plan. Even though we may love our families, the holidays + the pandemic may amp up stress levels for everyone. Try these strategies to minimize any conflicts. 

  • Keep up with self-care: Continue to do things that ground you and make you feel better. Make sure to protect time for your self-care activities at least once a day.
  • Maintain boundaries: It is really important to communicate boundaries with family. This is challenging, so familiarize yourself with some strategies (such as using “I” Statements), and then adjust them to fit your family’s style. You can set boundaries on a number of topics, how much time you spend together, discussions around relationship status or politics, body image and food habits, and lifestyle choices. Help your family see that maintaining healthy boundaries are helpful for everyone! This applies to you as well, respect other people’s boundaries. If you know of trigger-topics for a sibling or parent, try to avoid bringing it up. 
  • Spend quality time: This has been an exceptionally challenging year, and the thing we’ve learned the most is that we need each other. We need our communities. Stress during the holidays culminates in ways we don’t even realize, so try to plan activities that don’t include watching TV, and instead try to deepen your connection to others. This can include looking at old photos and videos, nostalgia creates emotional tenderness. Get curious about each other, learn more about your parents or grandparents. Have a story circle and talk about your reflections on the year: What was your best moment? What was your lowest moment? What’s something you learned about yourself this year? What are you most grateful for this year? Holidays are a great time to play fun games with each other as well! 

The science is out there, too much time on social media has an impact on our mood.


  • Financial boundaries: Maintain a budget around gifts. Gifts are not inherently part of the holiday season, they are meant to be an expression of love. So, if you’re tight on cash or want to stay within budget, do handmade cards or gifts that you can make. You could also do a Secret Snowflake/Secret Santa with your family and friends.
  • Social media boundaries: Since we’ve been home-bound, we are all spending more time scrolling on social media. The science is out there, too much time on social media has an impact on our mood. Try to maintain a healthy daily limit on how much time you spend on socials. Also, if you feel triggered and start to compare your holiday plan with others, definitely sign-off. Social comparisons impact our emotional health and are really easy to slip into. If you find yourself in that mind space, take out a piece of paper or the notes app on your phone and list out all the good things in your life that you love (big and small). 
  • Accept how you feel: It’s okay if you don’t feel happy and joyful the whole time. We put a lot of pressure on holidays, thinking it will look and feel like a Hallmark movie. However, this has been a wild year, so be open to all your feelings. Know that you can hold more than one feeling at the same time, you can be happy and grateful for your health AND sad about being away from your family at the same time. It’s okay if you feel angry on some days about COVID, and content and happy the other days about being with your loved ones. Try not to morally judge how you feel, there are no “good” and “bad” feelings. Always remember: feelings are temporary and feelings are not facts. Acknowledge the difficult emotions, sit with them for a little bit, and then move on with your day. 
  • Keep a routine: You may be off work for a few days, or not working at all.  It is really important to keep a routine during your days, even if it’s a flexible one. Some important daily milestones are:
    • Sleeping and waking up around the same time each day
    • Making sure to eat healthy and nutritious food around the same time and staying hydrated
    • Getting at least 10 minutes of movement each day

Always remember: feelings are temporary and feelings are not facts. Acknowledge the difficult emotions, sit with them for a little bit, and then move on with your day. 

No matter where or how you spend the holiday, remember that the holiday is just one part of the year, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. Go into this holiday season with an open mind and a desire to feel more connected to yourself and the people in your life. After all, those are the things that matter the most, this year and every year!

Israa Nasir

Israa Nasir is a psychotherapist and mental health educator, currently working at the intersection of mental health and technology in NYC. Being a ‘Third Culture Kid’, she is passionate about Asian diasporic issues, especially mental health and the role of (im)migration on identity. Her work is centered in encouraging real conversations about mental health in the Asian community. Connect with her on IG or on

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