For many people the holidays are a time to come together, but they can also be a tough time for others. During a pandemic, there are more challenges than ever.

“This time of year is really hard with all the social pressures, the pressure to give gifts,” Dr. Erin Amato said. “Then also family conflicts can make this a tough time, especially this year with all the strong opinions out there like masks and vaccines and politics. So there are a lot of reasons why people may be struggling.”

Dr. Amato has spent nearly two decades studying mental health and knows the holidays can be especially difficult in this age of social isolation.

“Even before 2020, this was an issue as we had an epidemic of loneliness in this country, but with all of the lockdowns and social distancing, that’s been heightened this year. Another reason why people are down during the holidays is grieving if they’ve lost a loved one, and this year is really unique because we’re all grieving on some level the loss of our normal lives.”

Dr. Amato has several tips to beat the holiday blues, including light therapy and a focus on simplicity.

“Life doesn’t have to be Pinterest perfect, especially this year. So don’t put that type of pressure on yourself. This is a year to really think about your financial outlays for gifts. Because a lot of people are feeling the financial pinch from the pandemic and lockdowns.”

Creating new holiday traditions and healthy eating and drinking will also help.

“This year we’re hearing a lot about the rising rate of alcohol abuse during the pandemic because of the social isolation and stress, the boredom that people have been experiencing so we really need to be careful with that this year. And if people notice that they’re starting to have a problem, they should seek some help.”

Dr. Amato added that giving up your some of time for service can be greatly beneficial.

“Look for ways to be of help to other people. When we’re serving others, it really helps our mood to pull us out of our own world and our own troubles. So organizations like the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank are looking for volunteers. So if you’re looking for a volunteer service opportunity, give them a call.”