The holiday season brings joy but it also brings stress and depression for many.
Because this is our first (and hopefully last) COVID Christmas, the stress and depression factors are tipping the scales this year. It is official, this has been one of the worst years in our history as a nation and we are not out of the woods yet.
The Christmas season, by its’ nature, places many demands on us — spending money, shopping for presents, cooking meals, decorating, cleaning and entertaining, traveling, and remembering those who are isolated or infirm, to name just a few. Add COVID-19 to the mix with its isolation and fear of infection and you significantly increase the potential for more stress. Which is why we either need to think out of the box, or maybe go back to the basics, or both, to capture the true meaning of this holiday. It is after all, the celebration of the birth of a savior.
I try to focus on the positives, even when they are hard to see. Perhaps there is an opportunity this year to be less commercial and more spiritual. Works for me!
Here are a few tips to help you minimize holiday havoc.
- Preventing stress is easier than reversing it. Start by acknowledging what you are feeling. Talk about it, don’t bottle it up. Maybe you are the ultra-independent person that everyone else relies upon, and you don’t want to disturb that image. Think again. You are allowed to be sad and anxious. You can still be independent and competent.
- Reach out to those you love as well as to complete strangers (sometimes they are even nicer than your own family.) There are communities, both religious and non-religious, offering social events outdoors and/or virtually that have never been more available or better.
- Do good deeds for others. It really does make you feel good. Volunteering your time to help others is not just a good way to lift your spirits, it may also expand into new friendships.
- Align expectations. Not everyone is on the same page when it comes to the pandemic. Some people might still be wearing their masks and keeping their distance, while others might have succumbed to “pandemic fatigue” and be returning to normal prematurely. Be clear on your expectations. The science tells us that this is not the time for a family meal with anyone but those with whom you live. Stick to your guns when it comes to keeping yourself safe. Remember the holidays don’t have to be perfect. Nor do they have to be like they have always been. That may mean the end of the giant family holiday. So be it. Start new traditions and rituals. Hold onto the really good ones or temporarily suspend them this year. You can reactivate them next year, unless you decide that you like the new ones better.
- Set aside differences. Adopt a non-judging stance….about everything. The holiday will feel much less stressful. Let go of old anger and embrace the chance to start again. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations.
- Don’t abandon healthy habits. Avoid the temptation to let the holidays become a free-for-all when it comes to drinking and eating. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.
Try these suggestions:
- Have a healthy snack before holiday meals so that you don’t go overboard.
- Plan for healthy meals with foods you truly love.
- Include regular physical activity even if it is only for 15 minutes.
- Try deep-breathing exercises, meditation, praying or yoga.
- Keep it clean…no alcohol or drugs.
- If the news stresses you out, cut back on it.
- Make time for yourself. Give yourself some space, even if it is only a fewminutes. You will be surprised how refreshing it can be. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm. I recommend Emotional Freedom Tapping (EFT) to my patients. It is amazing.
- Taking a walk at night and stargazing
- Listening to music
- Reading a book
- If everything else fails, seek professional help if you find that you are unable to function normally. If you can’t sleep, can’t get out of bed, or face even routine responsibilities and hygiene, it may be time to get help.
- As many people struggle during this time, it might be hard to see an end in sight. If you are contemplating self-harm or if you know someone who is, we have a list of excellent resources here.
- Remember, with any luck, next Christmas we will be past the worst of the pandemic and Christmas can return to normal. For live updates on the latest developments regarding the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, click here.
Connecting Has Never Been More of an Option!
If you are like me you want to be up on the all the ways to stay connected virtually so that you can stay engaged with your children and grandchildren. Here are all the things that are available today:
1) Social Media Platforms – There are a number of applications under the heading of social media. Beginning with the search engines, we have YouTube, which hails as the second most popular search engine in the world today, right behind its parent company, Google.
Pinterest has become a very popular social bookmarking tool for saving ideas and finding creative inspiration when it comes to everything from cooking to DIY home projects, vacation ideas, interior design, business concepts and everything in between including great ideas for enjoying the holidays.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Tumblr are a few of the other popular social media destinations. You can post images, make comments, and react to posts. There are tons of ways to connect using these platforms! You can totally adapt them to the needs and interests of your family.
2) Music Video Platforms – Tik-Tok allows users to create and share music video content. It has spawned a number of dances from simple to complex. Have a Tik-Tok dance off with your family or friends… It is a blast!
3) Video Sharing – YouTube is the most popular video platform on the internet and makes it easy to upload videos from practically anywhere! Create a family YouTube channel to share that everyone in the family can access easily anytime! All you need is online access (phone, laptop, pad, computer.) Videos are one of my favorite ways of staying connected to the family. I love to hear their voices, especially if they are giggling or laughing.
4) Messaging Platforms – A messaging platform is a unique tool that enables Internet users to exchange messages as a simple form of communication. These personalized interactions, can happen on an eCommerce website, a mobile app, social media such as Facebook and Twitter, etc.
Here are the most commonly used messaging platforms:
Snapchat is a free mobile messaging application used to share photos, videos, text, and drawings. It’s free to download the app and free to send messages using it. It has become hugely popular in a very short space of time, especially with young people. … This message will “self-destruct” in 10 seconds.
Facebook Messenger is a FREE mobile messaging app used for instant messaging, sharing photos, videos, audio recordings and for group chats. The app, which is free to download, can be used to communicate with your friends on Facebook and with your phone contacts.
Skype to Skype calls are free anywhere in the world. You can use Skype on a computer, mobile phone or tablet (Wi-Fi connection or mobile data plan required.) Users only need to pay when using premium features like voice mail, SMS texts or making calls to a landline, cell or outside of Skype.
WhatsApp (free) uses your phone’s cellular or Wi-Fi connection to facilitate messaging and voice calling to nearly anyone on the planet, alone or in a group, and is especially nice for families and small collaborative workgroups. The app lets you make calls, and send and receive messages, documents, photos, and videos. It’s features include voice and video chat, groups with up to 256 people, and end-to-end encryption on all messages.
Instagram is a free photo and video sharing app available on iPhone and Android. People can upload photos or videos to our service and share them with their followers or with a select group of friends. They can also view, comment and like posts shared by their friends on Instagram.
Twitter (free) is your go-to social networking app and the source for what’s happening in the world. … Twitter allows you to find interesting people or build a following of people who are interested in you.
WeChat is free to download, install, sign up for, and use as a messaging app and communication platform. Sending instant messages, images, voice calls, voice recordings, video calls, and some additional types of information is all free, no matter how long you talk, or how frequently you are using the WeChat app.
LINE (free) Reshapes communication around the globe, allowing users to enjoy not only free messaging but also free voice and video calls wherever you find yourself. … Even international calls with up to 200 people at the same time are completely free! Use effects and filters for even more fun during video calls.
Viber (free) Communities on Viber bring people with common interests together. Take part in a conversation on any topic you’re passionate about. All you need is a data plan or Wi-Fi connection and you’re good to go. Make free international calls, send text messages, images, or emojis to individuals or groups of people. Open a group chat any time. A quick check in message can do wonders both for the sender and the receiver!
5) Video Interaction – Zoom, FaceTime, GoToMeeting, and GoogleMeets are great ways to capture family gatherings that you can keep forever. When you need face to face interaction over a period of time, these platforms do the trick. Go Caroling together, make the same craft together, or share a holiday meal together virtually and save it for posterity!
6) Gaming – Let’s not forget the games. If you are used to playing Monopoly, Chuts and Ladders, Clue or the old holiday jigsaw puzzle, these may have to wait until next year. Taking their place are Roblox, Among Us, Fortnite, and Minecraft. Play in real time with other family members and friends, and message or facetime while you play.
That’s a lot of new technology right there! It’s amazing when you think about it! But, let’s not forget where we came from. Holidays are about traditions and these traditions are often reflections of getting through the difficult times that are inevitable in life. Many of the songs and movies that help us celebrate this season are stories about having hope during hard times and believing in happier times. Watching and listening to these movies and songs can be a great reminder that though this year is different and perhaps more difficult we are not alone, it’s a blessing to be alive and there are more celebrations ahead! I suggest we visit some of these classics as we celebrate Christmas in 2020.
Let the Music, Movies and Menus of Old Begin
Click for Free Image Download
For Easy Reference on The Best Music Downloads This Holiday Season
Best Selling Christmas Albums
My favorite thing to do at Christmas is listen to music: These are the Best-selling Christmas albums (total number sold as of 2014) from Nielsen SoundScan tracking data according to Wikipedia:
- Miracles: The Holiday Album / Kenny G ~ 7,310,000
- Noel / Josh Groban ~ 5,710,000
- Merry Christmas / Mariah Carey ~ 5,370,000
- These Are Special Times / Celine Dion ~ 5,310,000
- Christmas in the Aire / Mannheim Steamroller ~ 3,740,000
- A Fresh Aire Christmas / Mannheim Steamroller ~ 3,660,000
- Mannheim Steamroller Christmas / Mannheim Steamroller ~ 3,500,000
- Now That’s What I Call Christmas! / various artists ~ 3,480,000
- Christmas Eve and Other Stories / Trans-Siberian Orchestra ~ 3,430,000
- A Charlie Brown Christmas / Vince Guaraldi Trio ~ 3,410,000
- Christmas / Michael Bublé ~ 3,390,000
- When My Heart Finds Christmas / Harry Connick, Jr. ~ 3,150,000
- My Christmas / Andrea Bocelli ~ 3,010,000
- Christmas Extraordinaire / Mannheim Steamroller ~ 2,920,000
- Home for Christmas / *NSYNC ~ 2,760,000
- Faith: A Holiday Album / Kenny G ~ 2,750,000
- Beyond the Season / Garth Brooks ~ 2,650,000
- Home for Christmas / Amy Grant ~ 2,540,000
- A Very Special Christmas / various artists ~ 2,520,000
- The Lost Christmas Eve / Trans-Siberian Orchestra ~ 2,380,000
- A Very Special Christmas 2 / various artists ~ 2,200,000
- The Gift / Susan Boyle ~ 2,180,000
- Christmas Portrait / The Carpenters ~ 1,950,000
- White Christmas / Bing Crosby ~ 1,950,000
- The Christmas Album / Neil Diamond ~ 1,910,000
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For Easy Reference on Best Movies To Watch This Holiday Season
Top 15 Christmas Movies Of All Time
Christmas would not be Christmas without the classic Holiday movies. I can remember watching some of these in black and white on our very first TV growing up. It was like magic.
Here are the 15 top ranked Christmas movies of all time:
#15 – Remember the Night (1940)
Synopsis: Moved to pity by the Christmas season, New York District Attorney John Sargent (Fred MacMurray) lets pretty shoplifter Lee Leander (Barbara Stanwyck) out on bail and offers her a ride home to Indiana. They ultimately fall in love but an overprotective parent tries to derail the relationship and nearly succeeds.
Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, Beulah Bondi, Sterling Holloway
Directed By: Mitchell Leisen
#14 Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
Critics Consensus: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a yule-tide gem that bursts with eye-popping iconography, a spirited soundtrack, and a heart-warming celebration of the importance of diversity.
Starring: Burl Ives, Larry D. Mann, Billy Richards, Paul Soles
Directed By: Maury Laws, Larry Roemer
#13 Arthur Christmas
Critics Consensus: Arthur Christmas, a clever and earnest holiday film with surprising emotional strength. 3D, CG-animated family comedy.
Starring: James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent
Directed By: Sarah Smith, Barry Cook
#12 Die Hard (1998)
This is a holiday action classic. It’s Christmas time in L.A., when an NYPD officer tries to save his wife and several others taken hostage by German terrorists during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles.
Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Reginald VelJohnson, Bonnie Bedelia
Directed By: John McTiernan
#11 A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Christmastime is here. Happiness and cheer. And for Peanuts fans everywhere, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without this classic holiday… [More]
Starring: Peter Robbins, Christopher Shea, Tracy Stratford, Sally Dryer
Directed By: Bill Melendez, Phil Roman
#10 Tangerine (2015)
Critics Consensus: Tangerine is an old-fashioned comedy at heart — and a pretty wonderful one at that. After hearing that her boyfriend/pimp cheated on her while she was in jail, a hooker and her best friend set out to find him and teach him and his new lover a lesson.
Starring: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, James Ransone, Mya Taylor, Alla Tumanian Directed By: Sean Baker (II)
#9 Carol (2015)
Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) spots the beautiful, elegant Carol (Cate Blanchett) perusing the doll displays in a 1950s Manhattan department store. The two women develop a fast bond that becomes a love with complicated consequences.
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Kyle Chandler, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson
Directed By: Todd Haynes
#8 Meet me in St. Louis (1944)
A disarmingly sweet musical led by outstanding performances from Judy Garland and Margaret O’Brien, meet Me in St. Louis offers a holiday treat for all ages.
Smith family of St. Louis were tackled by a battalion of MGM screenwriters,… [More]
Starring: Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien, Lucille Bremer, Mary Astor
Directed By: Vincente Minnelli
#7 Little Women (2019)
Critics Consensus: With a stellar cast and a smart, sensitive retelling of its classic source material, Greta Gerwig’s Little Women proves some stories truly are timeless.
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen
Directed By: Greta Gerwig
#6 The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The Nightmare Before Christmas is a stunningly original and visually delightful work of stop-motion animation in which the Pumpkin King, Jack Skellington, becomes bored with his job of frightening people in the “real world.” When Jack accidentally stumbles on Christmastown, he gets a new lease on life as he plots to bring Christmas under his control by kidnapping Santa Claus, which does not go as planned….
Starring: Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, Glenn Shadix, Danny Elfman
Directed By: Henry Selick, Tim Burton
#5 How the Grinch Stole Christmas. (1976)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas brings an impressive array of talent to bear on an adaptation that honors a classic holiday story — and has rightfully become a yuletide tradition of its own.
Starring: Boris Karloff, June Foray, Thurl Ravenscroft, Eugene Poddany
Directed By: Chuck Jones, Ben Washam
#4 The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
The Shop Around the Corner is a romantic comedy in the finest sense of the term.
Starring: Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart, Frank Morgan, Joseph Schildkraut
Directed By: Ernst Lubitsch
#3 Holiday Inn (1942)
With the combined might of Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, and Irving Berlin working in its favor, Holiday Inn is a seasonal classic — not least because it introduced “White Christmas” to the world. The dancing is spectacular!
Starring: Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds, Virginia Dale
Directed By: Mark Sandrich
#2 Miracle on 34th street (1947. Miracle on 34th Street delivers a warm holiday message without resorting to cloying sentimentality.
Starring: Edmund Gwenn, John Payne, Maureen O’Hara, Natalie Wood
Directed By: George Seaton
#1 It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
It’s a Wonderful Life is one of a handful of films worth an annual viewing. It is my favorite. Frank Capra’s classic bittersweet comedy/drama about George Bailey (James Stewart), who wishes he had never been born, when an angel (Henry Travers) is sent to earth to make George’s wish come true. George starts to realize how many lives he has changed and impacted, and how different things would be if he had never there.
Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell
Directed By: Frank Capra
Top Rated Christmas Dinners:
Revealed! The most popular foods consumed on Christmas Day!
1) Roast potatoes.
2) Carrots. Coming in at number 2 of the most popular Christmas foods: carrots! …
3) Turkey. At number 3 on the list of most popular Christmas foods it’s the one, the only, the Turkey!
4) Gravy. …
5) Stuffing. …
6) Pigs in blankets. …
7) Parsnips. …
8) Brussels sprouts.
Huh. Most of these do not even make my list….what the?
Ok, my list is:
Baked Ham – The turkey was for Thanksgiving. I’m still having it…..I’m just saying why would I do that again so soon? I ordered a fully cooked organic sliced ham so I don’t even have to slice it.
Japanese Yams – If you haven’t tried them, you haven’t lived. They are nothing like a sweet potato or yam….so much better. Link to Recipe
Maple Bacon Brussel Sprouts – Link to Recipe
And for Desert: Bread Pudding – Link to Recipe
And Pumpkin Pies with Heavy Whipping Cream – Link to Recipe
These are some of my favorites from years past and some that I’ve added more recently into my traditional meal. But, all of these foods bring comfort and happiness to me. They remind me of people and celebrations I’ve had in years past and make me excited to think about sharing meals together in the future. This year, I’m taking time to check in with the things that truly express the meaning of Christmas to me. I hope that you are able to find meaning, gratitude, joy and hope in this Christmas and year ahead!
Does someone you love suffer from an eating disorder?
Dr. Renae Norton specializes in the treatment of eating disorders. Located in Cincinnati, Ohio. Call 513-205-6543 to schedule an appointment or fill out our online contact form for someone to call you to discuss your concerns. Tele-therapy sessions available. Individual and family sessions also available.
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Materials contained on this site are made available solely for educational purposes and as part of an effort to raise general awareness of the psychological treatments available to individuals with health issues. These materials are not intended to be, and are not a substitute for, direct professional medical or psychological care based on your individual condition and circumstances. Dr. J. Renae Norton does not diagnose or treat medical conditions. While this site may contain descriptions of pharmacological, psychiatric and psychological treatments, such descriptions and any related materials should not be used to diagnose or treat a mental health problem without consulting a qualified mental health care provider. You are advised to consult your medical health provider about your personal questions or concerns.