With the pandemic still ever present, celebrating this holiday season with family may be difficult or even impossible. Bakersfield therapist Jacob Kountz said this can impact us emotionally.
“Emotionally and mentally, it burns us out and when you have that increased isolation, it can, this is where the word depression stems from. It depresses us. Like imagine pressing something down, that’s us. I’ve seen it already begin with, you know, Halloween and even summer activities being kind of different," said Kountz.
Many people are still hoping this holiday season will look the same as any other, but Kountz said the reality is, that’s probably not the case. So instead of waiting to see how you feel once the holidays arrive, he said one of the biggest ways to help ourselves is taking preventive steps ahead of time.
“If we set our bar of expectations pretty high, chances are, the level of disappointment might be just as high as well. So one good thing is to remind yourself, I’m allowed to tweak my expectations a bit. Maybe lower the bar. And do what I can with the cards we’re kind of all dealt with," said Kountz.
Kountz said social media can also have a major impact on us as the holidays quickly approach. Seeing what others are doing can make us feel jealous or left out.
“Do you need to spend your time in that other present moment of others versus your very own? You’re taking away from your piece of life just for that moment and I think it’s worth to try and make the most of what you have in front of you," said Kountz.
He recommends stepping away from the phone as much as possible and remembering what we see online isn’t the full picture.
“What people can do is remind themselves that this is their reality for a moment, that other person’s. When you focus so much on that other person’s reality, you forget your very own," said Kountz.
When we are feeling down, Kountz said pushing ourselves to connect with others helps because chances are, they feel the same way.
“Knowing that, okay, we’re all thinking in our thoughts, this is not as great as we thought. But we’re still together. We’re still connected. We’re still texting each other. We’re still cold calling each other. We’re still sending each other letters. Things like that," he said.
And instead of focusing on how much you miss past holiday seasons or worrying about future ones, remembering that this is temporary and staying grounded in the present moment can ease our minds.
“Just like if you are in a classroom, you’re daydreaming about the future. And you’re like I don't need math. But then all of a sudden you hold a pen in your hand and you start rubbing it and you're like okay I got to be present or you’re chewing gum and you’re reminded by the taste. Those little things like that are grounding skills people can try to make themselves present,” said Kountz.
One strategy he recommends for combatting negative feelings is actively doing things that create the opposite emotion.
“There’s this concept of fake it until you make it mentality. And a lot of research shows that even if you fake a smile there’s things that change in the brain that gives us more energy," said Kountz.
He says having your favorite movie, song or activity on hand can also boost your mood.
And seeking out professional help may be something you never considered, but Kountz said it can make all the difference right now.
“When you walk in, it’s just honest conversation. You feel things that maybe you haven’t felt before or think things you haven't thought before. And when you start straightening those things out, things connect. You start connecting with people. You start connecting with yourself," he said.