Family Stress Intensifies as Omicron Invades the Holidays

A single mother of two girls, she bakes cookies and shops with her children to find new ornaments for the Christmas tree.

She hoped that this season would be more cheerful than in 2020, when schools were closed and the Covid-19 vaccine was not yet available.

It hasn't turned out that way.

Even though more people are returning to normal life in her hometown, Portland, Maine, they are finding there is little normal about it. They lack the energy to celebrate. Many people say they are stressed.

This year is bringing a new layer of stressors, especially now that the Omicron variant is making travel and everyday routines less enjoyable. We are no longer going to attend parties, concerts and movies. We are taking our temperatures and looking at the variant's symptoms. The nation's mental health is not good.

Inflation has driven up the prices of gifts. Many toy stores have no toys in stock as popular dolls and games sit aboard container ships in traffic jams offshore from the nation's ports.

Grump Trees are selling fast at Trader Joe's because of the traditional hassles of tangled light strings and fraught family relations.

"We entered into this winter feeling more optimistic, and now it's clear the uncertainty continues," said Vaile Wright, a clinical psychologist and senior director for health care innovation at the American Psychological Association. A recent study shows that people are having trouble making the most basic decisions.

The rules for family gatherings are changing, with rapid virus tests in higher demand than gifts. A clinical psychologist in the Chicago area said that covid adds a complexity to the holidays that wasn't there a few years ago.

The vaccination divide has caused hurt and isolation among the closest relatives. Some families will not allow immediate relatives to visit if they are not protected against Covid. Some people have gone further by demanding that their relatives get booster shots so they can enjoy the excitement of unwrapping presents.

Dr. Cynthia Ackrill, a lifestyle medicine physician, said that they weren't trained to look at other humans as a risk.

Ms. Sargent shifted to remote work so that she could be with her family for the holiday, so that she wouldn't be exposed to the virus.

She finds that being a single mother adds more strain to her planning for a second Christmas.

It is a lot of pressure to give your children so much magic and warmth right now, with so many limitations, and I don't have a partner to share it with.

A survey done for the American Psychiatric Association found that women were more stressed out this holiday season than last year.

The same was true for both Republicans and Independents, as well as those with incomes under $50,000, according to the poll.

The image is.

The New York Times has a story about Ena Sargent.

Counselors have been hearing from more patients and newcomers as tensions are evident in national warnings about the nation's mental health. Ms. Snow said appointments started increasing after Thanksgiving.

Patients at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles are experiencing twin worries from the Pandemic and the holidays, according to Dr. Itai Danovitch, chairman of the psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences department. He said that the two things colliding increase the background stress.

In counseling patients about Covid, Dr. Danovitch said, "I see both people who have resigned themselves to the new norm and also people who are in a state of fear."

Therapists offer a variety of tips and exercises to ease stress, often advising simple tasks like looking for activities to distract people from the pandemic and not watching anxiety-inducing news.

Dr. Danovitch said that drinking too much and smoking too much should be avoided. He suggests searching for ways to be of service in your community by volunteering for a worthy cause or checking in with an older neighbor.

The American Institute of Stress and editor of its magazine Contentment said to plan ahead for how to diffuse arguments during the holiday season.

She suggested a walk before dinner. That is a great idea if you can get outside. They should play a game together. Continue to have fun.

If the family starts talking about divisive topics. She said to point out that people at the table have different opinions.

She advised taking breaks during the day, even if it is just walking around or doing jumping jacks, or watching a funny four-minute video for a laugh.

Breath work is a technique of using controlled breathing to calm yourself.

The holidays can cause painful memories for some.

Dr. Danovitch said that if the anxiety is spinning out of control, you should seek help.

After her husband filed for divorce, Kathi Nausedas of Lockport, Ill., prepared for the second Christmas since her mother died. She is trying to keep her two young daughters out of the process.

Ms. Nausedas said that she was scared to face the holidays. I was afraid to listen to the Christmas music on the radio. I cried the first time it came on the radio.

Her mother's birthday added to the sense of loss.

She sought counseling with a therapist who helped her to be more comfortable with herself. Ms. Nausedas, a teacher in the public schools, is worried about how she will pay for gifts this year. She had to wait until Friday to start shopping.

Ms. Nausedas said that her daughters were grateful for anything. I think I can make anything work, and just be creative with it. They are the best.

She has learned of additional tasks that will be required for work. The teachers in her school district have been told to prepare two weeks of lesson packets in case they have to return to virtual teaching.

She would be teaching classes at the same time as she helps her daughters if the school district shifted to remote learning.

The image is.

A recent study by the American Psychological Association showed that people were having trouble making the most basic decisions.

Mary Janevic, 52, of Ann arbor, Mich., likes to have her teenagers play music at family gatherings with favorites like "We Three Kings," "Silent Night" and "The Little Drummer Boy."

Ms. Janevic's daughter, Laila, died six months after she became ill with a rare form of lymphoma at age 3 on Christmas Day 18 years ago.

Ms. Janevic said they were reeling for a while. She said that the more positive happy memories surface as time goes on. At the holidays, there is a tunnel to the past.

Ms. Janevic is an associate research scientist in health behavior and education at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

She and her husband, Robert, 52, can still carry on with their Midwestern Christmas, which includes opening presents on Christmas morning and wearing their pajamas all day. She will bake her mother's cookies with green food coloring.

Ms. Janevic said that her family will use rapid tests before a Christmas Eve gathering with relatives and before visiting her 92-year-old aunt.

The two daughters of Ms. Sargent got their second Covid vaccine shots in Portland.

They said they were excited before they left. It would mean a lot to them. They were both happy.