(KWWL) - This holiday season is causing a lot of stress and anxiety for those who want to get together with family, but also wanting to stay safe.
Since the start of the pandemic, anxiety, stress, and depression rates have increased enormously. Now that the holidays are among us, those numbers have increased even more.
Many are struggling with these issues, as the CDC is now recommending to avoid travel for Thanksgiving.
"I think the stress now in the short term is going to be better than the stress we would feel in the long term, if we gave COVID to somebody we care about and we're missing them at Christmas next year," University of Iowa Clinical Assistant Professor Emily Kroska said.
Feelings of depression and worry are justified with the situation the county is in with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"When sadness shows up, it might be a cue to be flexible and to get creative and how to pursue those things safely, instead of following that mental rule of 'I should do what I've always done' and try to persist, even when it might not make sense this year," Kroska said.
Traditions and family are what normally come to mind as Thanksgiving is near. This year, it's safety many are thinking about.
"If you don't feel that it's safe to gather, then don't gather, and if that feels unpleasant, I think we can feel those feelings, and there are alternative ways to participate that don't necessarily involve indoor gatherings with food in close proximity," Kroska said.
Some of those alternative ways include hosting a virtual gathering with the family, and trying something creative, like cooking something new, or sending messages to your loved ones.
Kroska says connection is sometimes more important than traditions.
The University of Iowa clinical psychologist says, if worry is starting to affect your way of life, you should seek help. Making decisions when you are struggling with your mental health is hard to do, especially during this time of the holiday season, in a year of a pandemic.
"When we feel something painful our urge is to avoid. To run. and I think what we know from the research this provides a lot of short-term relief but in the long term tends to make our stress bigger," she said.
Visiting with a mental health expert routinely if you are feeling depressed, overwhelmed, anxious, and/or stressed can benefit your way of life. Kroska says it's healthy, and if you find yourself canceling appointments, try to space them out instead of completely stopping any visits, or treatments.
Reaching out to family and friends who live alone, or isolating, can show those people that they have a support system, and are not alone.