Mental health experts offer tips for dealing with stresses during the holidays


CINCINNATI — Thanksgiving travelers may be feeling stuffed with stress because of COVID-19 – but the Stress Center at UC Health and counselors at Northern Kentucky University are offering up a side of relief by dishing out tips to get everyone through the holidays.

“One of the best ways to reduce anxiety is to have answers,” UC Health Stress Center director Dr. Kate Chard said.

Counselors on both sides of the river are offering help for people who might be succumbing to the stresses of the season.

“Planning ahead, I think, just emotionally and mentally it gets us in a place where we’re able to be grounded and ready for kind of whatever gets thrown in our way,” said NKU Counseling Services director Amy Clark.

Both counselors said it’s important to set realistic expectations.

“Make sure you everyone’s on the same page about how many people are going to be in the house,” Chard said. “How many people are going to be going out together? Where are we going to sit? Are we going to mask? That way you don’t run into miscommunications once you’re already there and all of a sudden you’re having a fight with your family on thanksgiving.”

Another way to deal with stress and anxiety is to expect the unexpected and attack the unknown.

“That may mean finding something that fits your children ahead of time and not waiting until the last minute to find something that will reduce your anxiety,” Chard said. If you’re traveling by car, where are you going to stop? Can you think ahead of time about maybe planning your meals? Think about rest stops that might be more safe and secure or a larger stop where there’s more spacing in both the facilities and in whatever store you’re going to so that you can feel like, ‘I’m not arriving at my thanksgiving destination completely stressed out from my trip just to get here.’”

Online tools like Mental Health America’s anxiety test could help determine when its time to reach out for help when you don’t feel normal.

“The biggest thing with stress and anxiety is at times it can feel out of control,” Clark said. “So many of us are struggling right now and if we’ve already had maybe some issues around mental health all of this just seems to escalate that.”

Chard agrees. She said the tumultuous times we’ve been living through can sometimes take their toll.

“We’ve had an election year, the economy’s gone up and down and so COVID has just added that layer of stress for pretty much everyone,” she said.

Finally, counselors said it’s important to find a sense of peace and hope and keep yourself grounded.

“I think the most important thing, this is the thanksgiving season and I think in all the stress, a lot times it’s hard to remember what we are thankful for,” Chard said. “Even if you have to have Thanksgiving over zoom or webx with your family, at least you still have your family.”

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