Family Stress and the Holidays

 In Colorado Spirit

Well, it is that time. Thanksgiving and all the winter holidays are upon us. Rates of COVID are rising around much of the country, Colorado included, and we are being implored by public health officials to avoid large gatherings. And many schools are returning to complete remote learning. This time of year can be intense and stressful in “normal” years. Given how far from “normal” this year is, many of us will be facing stressors we have not navigated in the past.

Colorado Spirit is here to provide support

We wanted to use this week’s post to call attention to some of the things on our minds and share some resources and suggestions. As always, know that the Colorado Spirit team is here to be a support. From Parent Support Groups, Tuesday Talks on Self-care, to individual support, the team is here for you. To access FREE support, please call 720-707-6789 or visit our webpage at www.allhealthnetwork.org/Colorado-Spirit

The holidays are upon us, what now?

Many of us are feeling the struggle about how to maintain holiday traditions, connections, and fun for the children and teens in our lives. We might be feeling pressure to find ways to “make up” for how rough of a year it has been for them. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCSTN) has a great piece here with some concrete suggestions and guidance. They remind us that more is not always better and that simple steps like engaging kids and teens in the conversation about holiday plans and finding new spins on traditions is impactful. Your presence and connection with kids goes a LONG way too! Remember, while we cannot “fix” anything for anyone, sitting in the “ick” with people is often validating and supportive.

Remember, while we cannot “fix” anything for anyone, sitting in the “ick” with people is often validating and supportive.

NCSTN also shares the suggestion to volunteer. I love this suggestion because it offers several benefits. It is versatile; it can be a fun family activity or something we do solo. It can also be a powerful stress management skill. Dr. Kelly McGonigal shares some research in her TED Talk about how caring creates resilience . And, it can be a distress tolerance tool. We know that distraction with positive and prosocial activities can help any of us tolerate difficult situations. Contributing and engaging in acts of kindness can serve as a beneficial distraction from intense emotions and situations we cannot control. Plus, it gives us opportunity to have some control. There are lots of organizations who have virtual volunteer options. Here is a local option that could make for a fun activity. (Disclosure: AllHealth Network is a member of this group).

Remember, this is hard stuff we are dealing with. Find ways to have grace for yourself and your loved ones. My boss and I often talk about how challenging it is when we have to choose “the best worst option.” I find myself having to face this dilemma each day. And, there is not even agreement about what the best worst option is within friend and family groups. We know this can create conflict and tension in relationships. As Sue Scheff recommends here , “Be kind, choose compassion over conflict.”  While this is easy to say, and a challenge to practice, finding ways to do this as we move into the winter season can help because we all benefit from keeping our support networks strong.  Avoiding shaming people who have different views around safe behavior than we do, and reassuring friends and family about how much we care about them even if we are taking a pass on holiday traditions can help. Our previous article about tolerating disagreements around COVID-19 also has some tips that could help with this.

Finally, find some time and space to honor what you need and want this holiday season. Too often holiday stress is intensified because we get caught up in pleasing others or trying to live up to all the expectations and “shoulds” we create for ourselves. This year more than ever, finding ways to speak up to get our needs met will be important to sustain ourselves.

Would speaking to someone help?

To speak with someone in the Colorado Spirit Program about stress related to the pandemic, please call 720-707-6789 or visit our web page at www.allhealthnetwork.org/Colorado-Spirit

For information about other services at AllHealth Network or to get connected with ongoing behavioral health support, please call: 303-730-8858.

AllHealth Network is continuing to provide service via telehealth or by phone and our Crisis Walk-in Center remains open 24/7. To learn more about what other community mental health centers are doing, please visit The Colorado Behavioral Health Council COVID-19 website.

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis and are in need of immediate assistance, please call the Colorado Crisis Hotline at 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255

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