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How To Protect Your Mental Health This Holiday Season

While in-person celebrations are not a safe choice this Thanksgiving, connecting with loved ones virtually is still an option.

Even in a normal year, the holidays can be stressful. This year health officials are recommending people who were planning to gather or travel for Thanksgiving stay home to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

For many of us this has been a year of sacrifice and family time might be exactly what we’re craving right now. As important as it is to show our loved ones that we are thinking of them, it’s equally as crucial to take care of our own mental and physical health.

Dr. Michael Mazius is a clinical psychologist who directs two mental health clinics in Wisconsin. He says if you can't gather with loved ones in person, you can still connect virtually.

“Be open to sharing, as well, because you are more likely to get the real story if you share the real story,” says Mazius.

Whether it’s over video chat or just a phone call, connecting with people is the most important part. Psychologically, he says that nothing is going to replace the quality of connection you get with a loved one in-person but because that is just not safe to do right now, it’s ok to get that connection through technology.

“It may seem somewhat incomplete, but I think we have to use what’s available to most of us, at our fingertips and take advantage of connecting with people that way,” he says.

Families are also having to deal with differences of opinions, as some members may want to accept the risk of gathering. While that may frustrate some who want to follow health professionals’ orders and stay home, Mazius says it’s important to make them feel heard and not lecture them because this is a difficult time.

This is also a tip he gives for those worried about political or other contentious discussions around the holidays.

“When you’re with people who want to talk about politics and especially if they don’t share your views; pay attention to the way in which you’re relating to them and try your level best to be a good listener,” he says.

Mazius stresses this is a difficult time and can be emotionally draining, so it is crucial that you remember to love yourself as well as your family this holiday season.

“Taking time out to just take care of yourself, whether that means taking a long walk if that is something that you like to do, curling up with a good book, eating a good meal, engaging in activities that make you feel good,” says Mazius.

From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.