ROCHESTER -- With COVID-19 surging in the state and in the nation, experts from the Mayo Clinic are sharing tips on how to manage compounding stress this holiday season.

Earlier this week, Governor Tim Walz announced a four-week pause to slow the spread of the virus as hospitals around Minnesota approach or reach capacity.

Dr. Craig Sawchuk is a psychologist at Mayo Clinic. He says the freeze could lead to many difficult conversations with loved ones regarding holiday celebrations.

When you are setting boundaries with others and communicating there's only one part of the equation you can control it's kind of what you say and how you go about saying it. How the other person interprets it you actually don't have very much control over that. That's kind of up to them. So this is why picking and choosing your words carefully is important.

Sawchuk recommends coming up with a decision based on your values, having a conversation with your family early on, setting a boundary rather than opening a debate, staying optimistic, and being open to doing things differently.

He also encourages getting creative with your celebrations this year in ways that include virtual gatherings or exchanging of letters and care packages through the mail.

Sawchuk says if your family cannot agree to disagree, it is important to ask yourself which is more important: the relationship or being right. He also says it’s helpful to remember that you are not personally responsible for other people’s choices or their happiness.

In addition to family anxiety, Sawchuk says normal seasonal depression could be compounded by loneliness and isolation related to COVID-19.

Some people may be struggling normally with symptoms of seasonal depression and they actually may be operating at a little bit more of a deficit heading into it. Likewise, we may also see some folks that historically have maybe had sub-clinical symptoms of seasonal depression, maybe like the winter blues where it doesn't quite get to the level where it becomes really impairing, but they too may be operating at a deficit.

Sawchuk says another stressor people may have to navigate this year is grief. Over 3,000 Minnesotans have lost their lives battling the virus, leaving many family members grieving.

Sawchuk says it’s okay to not be okay and recommends honoring those losses and connecting with healthy people through virtual or socially distant means.

He says even if you have not experienced loss this year it is important to be mindful of people who have.

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