Self Care

Tips for Managing Holiday Expectations

This article originally appeared on Behind the Curtain from the 5th Avenue Theater. Premera Blue Cross Case Manager Andrea Donovan-DuPont, a licensed social worker, shares with us tips for handling a physically distanced holiday season.


Even in “normal” years, the holidays can be stressful. Finding perfect gifts, delighting children with holiday magic—and then sharing it all in social media posts is a lot of pressure.

This year, we’re adding the burden of worrying about our health and facing the reality that celebrations won’t look like they usually do. If this brings up feelings for you, you’re not alone.

Acknowledge the Grief

There might not be money for extravagant meals and presents. Holiday gatherings are canceled. There’s no live Christmas musical at The Fifth Avenue Theater. It can be difficult to realize we can’t do all our favorite traditions this year.

Take the time to check in with yourself and acknowledge what you’re feeling and sit with it for a minute. From there, you can determine what you need to do to move forward and take care of others. It starts with taking the time to feel what you need to feel.

Once you’re ready, you might find some creative ways to maintain some traditions. Going for a drive to look at lights could get you in the spirit. You could also take some gatherings virtual—like gift opening over video chat or sending photos for gingerbread house judging.

Allow Yourself Some Grace

This has been a challenging year for many of us. Try to have some compassion for yourself. You don’t have to celebrate at the same level you did in previous years. You might even decide that some holiday traditions were more overwhelming than enjoyable and decide to let them go.

Your loved ones want you happy more than anything else, so enjoy the holidays the way that makes sense to you this year.

Tell Others What You Need

You can’t always assume that people know what you need, so reach out to your loved ones and tell them. Let them know how they can support you.

That could include canceling usual gatherings, cutting back on gift-giving, or asking for weekly phone calls.

COVID-19 has left many people isolated. This can be especially challenging in the dark, winter months. Help is available. Check your health insurance company’s website for information on finding mental health care. Flexible, low-cost virtual care options are also available.

Reimagine the Holidays

Reframing the situation can help you enjoy it differently. For example, you can look forward to a low-stress holiday in your own home instead of feeling disappointed that you can’t travel. A favorite quote of mine is “gratitude turns what we have into enough.” Feeling grateful for what you do have might help you get through the unusual season.

Finally, remember this isn’t forever. This is temporary. We’re going to be back to our holiday traditions in the near future.

While you can’t go to the theater right now, if you want something special for the holiday season, check out digital offerings from the 5th Avenue Theater.

Image by visualspace