Susan Phillips.jpg

Susan Phillips

Undoubtedly, the 2020 holiday season will be different from any other year. For many people, the holidays can be stressful in even the best of times with excessive time demands, budget concerns, relationship difficulties, and loneliness.

But 2020 has the additional stressors of the pandemic and political and social concerns that make it difficult for some to get through each day.

Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System (VBH), a local behavioral health organization serving a total of 35 counties in the Middle Tennessee, Upper Cumberland and South East areas, shared a few tips for self-care to resist negative stress and depression.

If you are worrying about your health, or you are anxious about how the holidays will go for your family this year, just know you are not alone. As a community, we are all collectively going through something we have never gone through before, but there are strategies we can use to help us through.

The first thing to do is to recognize and express your feelings. Sometimes the instinct is to pretend to be happy for the holidays because people feel like they’re not allowed to feel sadness or anxiousness during the “happiest time of the year.”

Finding someone to listen to how you are feeling is a great step. This can be a trusted friend or family member, but you can also reach out for support in the community, through church, an online support group, or a virtual therapist.

Next, realize that you can have feelings of loss for a multitude of reasons. There can be grieving for the loss of life, of course, but also for other losses such as financial, relationships, or health. Feelings associated with loss and grief can be heightened during the holidays, so it’s important to have supports in place or to ask for help when you need it.

There can also be feelings of sadness and loss from having to change how we celebrate. Since some of the traditions from previous years might not be possible in 2020, take a moment to think about new options for celebrating. Even though we are physically distanced, we do not have to be socially distanced.

Some suggestions include to plan an outdoor scavenger hunt, set up times to play cards or games online with friends, watch a favorite show or sporting event while on speakerphone, do a hot cider toast in the front yard with your neighbors, coordinate a driving tour of the neighborhood holiday lights, or deliver baked good to front porches. Accept that things may not be perfect, but consider the opportunities for new traditions.  

One other common stressor during the holidays is not having enough time to get things done, especially when our routines feel a bit haywire already. Plan your schedule out in advance so that you have time to do the activities you want to do without rushing. Schedule breaks and time for walks, extra sleep, meditation, hobbies, relaxing, and exercise. This may mean that you have to say “no” to some invitations to prevent feeling overwhelmed. It’s ok to turn down an invitation. Especially this year, most people will understand that we all can’t do everything. 

Even being tasked with “doing self-care” can feel like a chore for some. Start small. Even 10-minutes or 15-minutes of alone time doing something you enjoy can help to shift your mood. If that doesn’t seem to help, please reach out for help. We are always here.

VBH is a non-profit community behavioral health organization which serves a population base of over 1 million Tennesseans in an 11,000 square mile area. In addition to their outpatient services, Volunteer offers ancillary services including residential treatment, mobile crisis response, crisis stabilization units, specialty children’s programs, and web-based services at various locations within the VBH organization.

Learn about more ways Volunteer Behavioral Health can help by visiting their website at or by calling 1-877-567-6051 for a same day appointment.

Susan Phillips is the local VBH Center Director at Cumberland Mental Health.

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