The holidays can sometimes be very challenging times for our mental health, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic currently raging worldwide. 

Many holiday plans have been canceled. Family conversations and finances have also become increasingly difficult. Travel plans have also changed as the novel coronavirus continues to infect people at alarming rates across the United States. 

Americans have been forced to abandon long-standing traditions and large family gatherings. The virus has also led many to hunker down inside their homes, which causes anxiety levels and depression to rise. 

The COVID-19 pandemic does not have to make the holidays even more difficult. You can always celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas while following the coronavirus measures recommended. 

Here are some tips from experts to help you handle the holiday stress and keep you safe from COVID-19. 

Find workarounds. Visiting family members, especially those who are at high-risk, is not advisable this year. Celebrate with them virtually by using video-calling software, such as Zoom or Facebook Room. 

Stepping back and shifting your perspective can help you make the most of the holidays while not putting yourself and your loved ones in danger. Being prepared for anything can also help you minimize stress. 

Practice self-care. Don’t let the holiday season encourage you to abandon healthy habits. According to Mayo Clinic, overindulgence and a lack of sleep can only increase your stress levels. 

Having a healthy snack before holiday meals can help prevent you from going overboard on cheese platters and drinks. Avoiding excessive smoking or drinking could also put you in a better headspace. 

If you feel overwhelmed or stressed out, you can try deep-breathing exercises or meditation to calm yourself and reduce tension. 

Take some time to relax. Find some time for yourself. Allow yourself space to take a breather. Spending just 15 minutes alone and doing an activity you enjoy can help you get a better grip on everything you need to do. 

Many activities, such as listening to soothing or classical music, reading a book, and taking a warm bath, can reduce your stress, clear your mind, and restore your inner peace. 

Plan your budget. Holiday shopping can be very stressful, especially when you realize you’re spending way too much. Rein in on spending by planning your budget and listing down the items you need. Your list may include groceries, clothing, and gifts. 

If you’re looking for presents, Today’s Parent suggests considering buying something that they can read or wear. A gift that can be used is less likely to become clutter. Additionally, hosting a Secret Santa could lessen the stress and cost for everyone. 

Acknowledge your feelings. Embracing your feelings, negative or positive, can help you manage your emotions and those of the people around you. Sharing what you feel to other people, even though it may lead to difficult conversations, can make the holidays better. 

Ask for help. If you feel like you have trouble engaging in activities, or have difficulties getting out of bed or connecting with other people, consider seeking help from professionals. 

According to experts, a persistent feeling of sadness, anxiety, irritability, and hopelessness are red flags. Thoughts that involve harming yourself is also a sign that you need to talk to a doctor or a mental health professional. 

There are many places in the Bay Area that offers psychiatric emergency services. If you or any family member are considering self-harm or suicide, you can text “Connect” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741. Their suicide prevention services are open all hours of the day. It is also free of charge. 

You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).