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In 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside down — sending people into isolation, forcing businesses to close, and drastically changing the way we celebrate the holidays. 

Now, more than a year and a half into the pandemic, we’re heading into the second holiday season living with the virus. For many, this will mark the first year that family and friends will reunite and that transition can be tough. 

Here is our PIX11 guide to help you navigate stress, difficult conversations, grief, and financial hardships during the holidays. 

We spoke with Board Certified Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Jeff Gardere, about how to handle it. Here’s what Dr. Jeff said:

Navigating politics at the holiday dinner table: How do you handle it if you know the table have varying opinions that may get heated?

·      Go to the gathering with the headspace of learning something new during any political discussion.

·      Agree to agree and agree to peacefully disagree.

·      Follow the rules of respectful engagement: no personal attacks, no yelling, no name calling or belittling, no cutting off the other person, and keep it friendly.

An unvaccinated family member wants to come to a holiday dinner that you’re hosting: What do you say? How do you decide?

If you are requiring guests to be vaccinated, then this person should respect that, and not insist on coming. Don’t get into feelings of guilt for doing the right thing. You can say, “we would love to have you over, but for your safety and the safety of others, we have to respectfully decline your request.” You can also have the person join you virtually, via Zoom.

On difficult conversations, what is the right way to approach a family member who makes you feel judged with comments about: your relationship status, career, etc.?

·      You can be honest and answer the question and then pivot away to another topic or ask them a question.

·      Do the therapist thing and ask them why they are asking and go into a more general topic about kids or being single in America.

·      Keep in mind they are asking because they want you to be happy, it’s not just about being nosey!

A recent study from WebMD found that 57% of Americans are grieving the loss of someone close to them. This means that every other person you see is grieving in some way during the holiday season. NY-based life transition coach Gina Moffa shared tips on how to manage your grief if you’re struggling during the holidays.

Watch the full interview HERE.

Q: What do you think is the best way that people can avoid triggers during gatherings with family during the holidays?

Gina: One of the best ways to avoid a grief trigger is simply to prepare yourself for them. They will happen. You will be reminded and it may feel really painful and difficult. Giving yourself permission to remove yourself to go cry, bring a small notebook with you or a piece of paper to write your feelings down in a private space if that’s possible, or simply stating your boundaries in a clear and kind way on what you’d rather not hear or talk about.

Food insecurity has been an ongoing problem in the U.S. Now, almost two years into COVID-19 and with millions of Americans still out of work, the urgent problem of hunger has only gotten worse.

PIX11 spoke with two community heroes — Nancie Katz, Co-founder of the non-profit Seeds in The Middle and Karen Pearl, President and CEO of the non-profit God’s Love We Deliver on ways to help fight food insecurity especially during the holiday season.

Watch the full interview HERE.

As temperatures begin to drop and the sun sets earlier and earlier, the last half of the year is a time where more than 3 million Americans are affected by seasonal affective disorder.

PIX11 spoke with Dr. Sue Varma, a board-certified psychiatrist, who shared tips about how to cope with seasonal depression during another pandemic winter.

Q: How do you know if you’re struggling with seasonal depression OR experiencing general burn-out? What’s the difference?

Dr. Varma: Seasonal Depression is a type of depression that can cause symptoms including general tiredness and oversleeping, feeling sluggish, losing interest in activities you typically enjoy and mood swings. Burnout is not considered a medical condition like depression and usually doesn’t lead to the deterioration in functioning in all aspects that we see in winter depression. Typically, we think of burnout being circumscribed to work- and has 3 key symptoms: cynicism, exhaustion and not feeling impactful at work.