November 30, 2020
December 11, 2020

The holidays often bring anxiety & depression – this year the pandemic is another unwelcomed guest

For many people, the holiday season can bring about unwanted stress and anxiety. The holidays often present a wide range of demands – cooking and baking, shopping, cleaning and entertaining, to name just a few. This holiday season, the rising number of COVID-19 cases in your community may be giving you additional stress by worrying about you and your loved ones’ health. You also may feel stressed, sad or anxious because your typical holiday plans and traditions may be altered this year due to the on-going COVID-19 crisis.


“The pandemic has challenged us all in different ways since day one but now it’s especially difficult for people to deal with the challenges and sacrifices presented to us at this very special and joyous time of year,” said Daniel Regenye, Ocean County Health Department (OCHD) Public Health Coordinator/Health Officer. “Stress and depression won’t only spoil your holidays but it can compromise your health.”


But with some practical tips provided by the staff at the Mayo Clinic, you can minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays.

Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones for other reasons, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.


Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events or communities. Many may have websites, online support groups, social media sites or virtual events. They can offer support and companionship. It also may help to talk to a friend or family member about your concerns. Try reaching out with a text, a call or a video chat.

Volunteering your time or doing something to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships. For example, consider just dropping off a meal and dessert at a friend’s home during the holidays.

Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like years past. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children or other relatives can’t come to your home, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos. Or meet virtually on a video call. Even though your holiday plans may look different this year, you can find ways to celebrate.

Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.


Stick to a budget. Before you do your gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.

Try these alternatives:

  • Donate to a charity in someone’s name.
  • Give homemade gifts.
  • Start a family gift exchange.


Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, connecting with friends and other activities. Consider whether you can shop online for any of your items. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for meal prep and cleanup.

Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.


Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.

Try these suggestions:

  • Have a healthy snack before holiday meals so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
  • Eat healthy meals.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Include regular physical activity in your daily routine.
  • Try deep-breathing exercises, meditation or yoga.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol and tobacco use.
  • Be aware of how the information culture can produce undue stress, and adjust the time you spend reading news and social media as you see fit.


Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Find an activity you enjoy. Take a break by yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing, and restoring inner calm.

Some options may include:

  • Taking a walk at night and stargazing
  • Listening to soothing music
  • Reading a book

Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

“This year especially, people should take control of the holidays and not let it become something to dread,” advises Kimberly Reilly, OCHD Chief of Administrative Services, Drug and Alcohol Unit. “Instead, take some of these important steps to prevent the stress and depression that can prevail during the holidays. If you learn to recognize your holiday triggers, such as financial pressures or personal demands, then you can confront them before they lead to a meltdown. With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during this unique and challenging holiday season.”


If you are in a crisis and need immediate assistance please call one of the following mental health hotlines:

Ocean Mental Health Services – 732-575-1111 or 877-621-0445

NJ Mental Health Cares – 866-202-HELP

Preferred Behavioral Health Group – 866-904-4474

Or dial 9-1-1


For additional information on holiday stress and coping solutions please visit, and You can also follow the Ocean County Health Department on our Facebook page or Twitter @OCpublichealth.

The OCHD is also providing a general COVID-19 Information Call Hot Line for residents and clinicians to answer questions regarding the coronavirus. The number is 732-341-9700 ext. 7411.

The NJDOH (NJPIES) hotline is available for questions around the clock at 1-800-222-1222 or by dialing 2-1-1. Other related sources; for medical COVID-19 questions call 1-800-962-1253  or Text NJCOVID to 898-211 to receive alerts.