It’s common to feel stress day to day, and COVID-19 has brought stress to a whole new level. However, there are steps we can take to stay mentally healthy and strong during these difficult and constantly changing times.

Where do we begin?

Start by taking a few deep breaths: one hand on your chest, the other on your stomach. Only the hand on your stomach should move if you’re breathing the right way. Take a few of these calming breaths to help you get into the here-and-now, and out of the worries in your head.

Practice self-care.

This is not just a luxury like a massage or spa day; think of self-care as the “essential work for your mental health.” It includes getting a good night’s sleep, proper nutrition, exercise, sunlight—even if it’s just sitting by a window. These small steps can sustain you for the long term.

What about traditions?

Special occasions, birthdays and holidays continue to look different because of COVID precautions. Many are struggling with these changes, and it’s okay to be upset. To help it feel less difficult, adjust your traditions based on what’s most important to you through a four-step process:

  1. Think about what’s most important to you about the occasion.
  2. What steps can you take to connect with family and friends?
  3. Consider creative ways to make it happen.
  4. Enlist others and make a plan to carry it out.

How do we handle the kids?

It’s hard to explain to our kids why we can’t get together with family and friends as usual for special occasions. Because we don’t want our kids to be sad or disappointed, we sometimes rush in to make those emotions disappear. As parents or caretakers, it’s important to let kids have those feelings. Help them articulate and give voice to them. This is a lifelong skill that they’ll be able to use as adults.

Totally overwhelmed? You’re not alone.

With the juggling act many of us experience—with work, kids, virtual school, meals, etc.—sometimes we can be overly tough on ourselves. Think about what you would say to your best friend, instead of the harsh words you say to yourself. Be encouraging and decide what’s most important. You can’t possibly manage everything, much less do it perfectly, so consider which things are important and allow yourself to let other things slide.

Let it go.

We all have expectations about what birthdays and other special occasions should be like, and we may worry about not living up to the experience because of the pandemic. Instead of focusing on what’s missing, figure out what you love best about your traditions. Is it the stories? The laughter? The sharing? This year, try doing whatever makes you happy… and you just might end up making some new traditions along the way.

If you or someone you love needs help coping with anxiety, stress, or other mental health issues, contact your ChristianaCare primary care provider or call our Behavioral Health intake line at 302-320-2100.