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How Parishes Can Help Couples and Families Handle Holiday Stress How Parishes Can Help Couples and Families Handle Holiday Stress
Anticipating what our Christmas celebrations are going to look like in the midst of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is certain to add to the normal stress already associated with the holidays and will pose a real challenge to many families this upcoming holiday season.

Surveys show a major increase in the number of U.S. adults who report symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression during the pandemic when compared with responses before the pandemic. Some people have increased their use of alcohol or drugs, thinking that can help them cope with their fears about the pandemic.

Being overstressed during the holidays can be understood to be self-induced, derived from a sense of obligation. Stated another way, it has too often become “putting the cart before the horse”. The focus of the season becomes obscured and overridden by the preparation and expectations that we put on ourselves. This results in an overly stressed, often disappointing holiday season when these expectations are not realized.

The ongoing period of the pandemic has resulted in many of our normal activities and rituals being temporarily limited or eliminated. In anticipating the holidays, many families may feel anxious or sad that their holiday plans may look different because of the COVID-19 restrictions.

However, the reduced social activity has resulted in a more streamlined and simplified range of activities. Many families have rediscovered the value of home-based interactions and a simpler lifestyle, with a greater appreciation for each other and sense of family.

Parishes can seize upon this newer trajectory by encouraging couples and families toward holiday preparations that focus more on entering into the liturgical and spiritual celebrations of the holiday season. These are some considerations and resources to help couples and families have a more peaceful and joyful holiday season.

For families experiencing stress
Helping couples and families manage expectations and focus on the essential reason for the holiday season can help lower stress, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

For families experiencing grief
Recognize that some families are experiencing losses — of a loved one, of a tradition, of a job — that make holiday celebrations more difficult.

For families experiencing depression and anxiety
Understand that for some individuals and families the holidays can be overwhelming and depressing. Refer individuals to these resources to prevent holiday stress and depression:

For families looking to start new traditions
Encourage families to maintain cherished holiday traditions or start new ones. Recognize that traditions may need to be adjusted and modified due to the pandemic. Find creative, meaningful and practical ways to help families enter into the liturgical period of Advent while preparing for the celebration of Christmas. Focus on the true meaning and spirit of Christmas!