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Holiday blues? Doctors share advice as families celebrate virtually this year

TAMPA, Fla. — For some people, this may be the first holiday away from family in years.

COVID-19 is forcing many of us to celebrate virtually to protect everyone during this pandemic. Tampa Bay area doctors are sharing what might help if you’re feeling those holiday blues.

“This is probably going to be the first holiday in probably 33 years of my life that I haven’t been able to spend with my family in some capacity,” said Jeremy Blythe.

When COVID-19 kicked holiday plans to the curb, people like Blythe decided to sit with family in front of a screen this year.

“It is a major let down, but at the end of the day, what we’ve all decided, at least as a family what we discussed, we have to make the smart choice,” said Blythe. “The unpopular choice sometimes is the one that needs to be made. Unfortunately, in order to keep all of us safe, that’s what’s most important.”

University of South Florida associate professor of psychiatry Dr. Ryan Wagoner says any time there’s a holiday, it can bring both joy and stress. He says people may deal with more anxiety or depression around the holidays sometimes, especially if they can’t be with their loved ones.

“I foresee that there are going to be people who experience the holiday blues who maybe haven’t in the past because they usually love this time of year, and it’s going to be a bit different,” said Wagoner.

Wagoner suggests trying to keep your routines and traditions as best you can, reminding people to connect with friends, family and not to hesitate to reach out for help when you need it most.

“With COVID-19, physical isolation is important, but social isolation is not what we’re looking for,” said Dr. Wagoner. “We still want you to be connected with your family. We still want you to do things with them and see them. You just might not be able to do it in person.”

Grace Hamilton switched up what could have been a big party this year, opting instead for smaller and virtual.

“There are so many different ways that we can make this a special holiday,” said Hamilton. “Stay focused on what we have accomplished in this crazy year of 2020. There are so many blessings to be found.”

Dr. Wagoner also says talk to your friends and family about how you’re feeling because they might be in the same boat, too.

“You can share memories, you can share laughs, share stories,” said Blythe. “And just remember that things will change and things will get better.”

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