Stress and anxiety from COVID-19 is not taking a break for the holidays

Thanksgiving is days away, and for many people it will not be filled with the usual traditions and familiar faces packed around the dinner table. Experts say in increase in mental health issues are expected this year.

The holiday season is normally a time to gather with loved ones.  However, this year, with surging COVID-19 cases and community spread of the virus, many people are following expert advice to stay home and not gather with loved ones.

“I’m bummed that we are very limited on what we’re going to do,” shared Keri Kellam.

The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay always sees an increase of calls around the holidays, but this year they expect the numbers to spike.

“All of those things can make us very overwhelmed,” said Clara Reynolds, President and CEO of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.

Reynolds says instead of focusing on what you are missing this Thanksgiving, use the extra time as an opportunity.

“What’s so important in this is how you can make new memories and not dwell on the fact that your traditions of the past you might not be able to do them this year,” she said.  “What can you do to kind of put a new spin on an old tradition so that you’re still creating those important memories for your family and yourself this holiday season?”

There are so many stressors piling up on people, job loss, death, political unrest, cancelled trips and missed milestones. Combine all those with the pandemic, and people are having a tough time with mental health.

“It’s okay to not be okay, I mean this is a year where people who have never experienced behavioral health issues are experiencing them, anxiety and depression,” said Reynolds.

Those feelings may be amplified for people who already have a diagnosed condition, and that is okay too.

To cope, experts say try making time to do stuff that make you happy, put a priority on the things you can control in your life, find a way to give back, or reach out to friends and family and really open up.

“More than likely if you’re feeling this way, someone close to you is also feeling this way as well,” Reynolds said.  “So sometimes just sharing how you’re feeling between two people will do so much to alleviate some of that anxiety and depression type feelings that you’re having.”

If you are still struggling, experts say you should reach out for help. Your employer may offer resources, and the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay is available 24-hours a day, seven days a week by dialing 211.