How to Navigate the Holidays During a Pandemic

by | Nov 22, 2020 | Holidays/Holy Days/Seasons | 12 comments

For highly sensitive people, the holidays can be challenging. As I’ve written in several posts, including here, and talked about in the free webinar called “How to Maintain Your Sanity During the Holidays” (you can access it at the bottom of this page), the holidays, as transitional and highly-charged days, can trigger a host of uncomfortable feelings that we’re conditioned not to feel because we’re sold the fantasy that holidays are supposed to be only happy and harmonious times.

The reality in the best of times often reveals a different picture, one that deviates from the Normal Rockwell expectations. And when you add a pandemic to the emotional pie, things ramp up several notches, as the holidays may look very different this year than they have in the past.

Some of you will be celebrating with family. Some of you will be alone. Most of us will experience something quite different this year both externally and internally.

This has been a year like no other. We’ve been in unprecedented territory since March and this groundlessness continues as we enter the holiday season. We’ve all experienced loss, heartache, disappointment, fear, uncertainty, and many other challenges this year. There have also been silver linings, and it’s important to make space for those as well.

Holidays, like all transitions, bring the emotional tenor of the year to high relief, which means that whatever you’ve been feeling throughout the year will likely be amplified in these coming weeks. We don’t need to fear the heightened emotional awareness when we trust that not only can we handle the emotions but also that when we move toward them instead of trying to squirrel them away among the holiday nut bowls we give ourselves the gift of tending and healing.

Here’s the reminder that lives at the center of my work: the more we allow ourselves to feel our vulnerable feelings the less they’ll morph into anxiety, intrusive thoughts, irritation and panic. The contents of the heart need to be released. The soul needs tending. And especially so during heightened times.

Sending love and gratitude for all of you. This too shall pass.



  1. As always, your calm wisdom radiates at the most perfect of moments. Feeling isolated and alone in my experiences of anxiety and sadness as these holidays approach during unprecedented times, I’m reminded by your voice, reaching out to teach all of us who resonate with you, that I am not alone. That this moment is part of the journey rather than a sign that something is wrong. And my soul sighs with relief. I am so grateful for your teachings and strength. You are an oak tree! Xoxo

    • It’s an honor to be an oak tree in a grove of such beautiful trees, as you are all are. Let’s stand together in our gentle strength as we remember to bend with the winds, let go of the leaves that are ready to crinkle and fall, and touch our roots together as we watch the time pass and remember that spring always follows these seasons of fallowness and loneliness.

  2. Lastly I was thinking about the roots of my anxiety towards my partner. He goes to work everyday and I stay at home and do online teaching. It’s not my style of working, but… And he irritates me sooooo much because he’s much more emotional than me – cries when upset, and needs lots of affection. What also triggers my bad feelings towards him are common statements that a REAL man “should be”… And I wish my man was actually a little more stereotypical. Does it sound like relationship anxiety (probably caused by isolation), or is that a sign that we don’t match?

    • Mag, I wanted to reply to you in case Sheryl isn’t able to. Definitely sounds like relationship anxiety. The fact that these statements make you anxious, that you’re even here in general, show how deeply you care about your relationship. Plus, anything that triggers you is going to be more front of mind than ever since the both of you are home (and isolated, like you said). I went through the same thing with expectations of what love is/who a partner should be. But I learned that those stories were outdated and rewrote new ones that were so alleviating and took the pressure off. It’s never perfect, but that doesn’t have to stop you from aiming for good, very good, or great (while recognizing that some days are just going to suck, lol).

      Also, I totally get the desire for reassurance. But from what I’m understanding about anxiety, even when we’re reassured, our brains just find new caveats to keep us stuck in the familiar (anxiety). When I get anxious, I try to tell myself “oh, thanks brain for that helpful but unnecessary thought. I’m ok and don’t need your added commentary.” Not trying to “solve” the thoughts is so hard (especially at first), but we’re all works in progress and you CAN do this.

      • Mayberry,
        What you have written gave me at least a moment of relief, thank you! Your response reassured me that I’m not alone in my difficulties. Yesterday I did something I definitely shouldn’t have, and now I know why Sheryl warns against it all the time – I started reading online articles about dating sensitive men, and many of the articles were so cruel (only one of them resembled Sheryl’s tone)… Also, I sometimes have feelings such as: “WHAT IF he’s not that sensitive but simply manipulating”? “WHAT IF I don’t really love him?” (Here it is, thinking that I’m the exception 😉 ) Working on myself is so hard, even thought I’m helped by a great therapist – but the thought “it wouldn’t be that hard if I was alone or with somebody else” comes and goes… From what I’m reading, you have done an amazing job, accepting your feelings and putting aside stereotypes! I wish you lots of health :*

        • KH THANK YOU! I don’t know why I have missed this article until now! That all does make sense!

  3. Lately, I’ve been stressing so much about my partner, Sheryl.

    I’ve been bouncing from crush to crush daily and I’m curious – how do you know whether or not it’s time to leave a relationship vs. it’s just a harmless crush?

    Thank you, my dear friend 🙂

  4. Hi Sheryl. I find myself worrying about the upcoming holidays since I’ve had a major breakdown last year. I feel a bit better now, but I’m scared to death that it will happen again. In addition, I’m struggling really hard at the moment with a thought that is true. I mean, I’ve had many irrational thoughts (I’m having a heart attack, I’m dying, I’m gay, I don’t love my boyfriend, etc.), but it seems that most of my obsessions now are true. For example: I’m really struggling at the moment with the fact that my boyfriend has a mild form of aspergers. I cannot stop thinking about how this affects our relationship and our future together. I’m scared to have children, I’m scared that it doesn’t workout.

    Right now, there aren’t any ‘big’ problems due to his autistic traits. We have some differences in the way we want to spend our time and I sometimes have to remind him that it is important to plan dates together, but besides that there is nothing really ‘wrong’. He is supportive, sweet and loyal. He loves me very much. But all I can see now is his autism… To be honest, I feel very guilty because it seems like I can’t fully ‘accept’ him with his autism. I sometimes have thoughts like ‘If I leave him I can date someone ‘normal’ and that would be a lot easier and then all the doubt wouldn’t be there’. But again: I still love him. Do you have any opinions on this topic? Is this a red flag?

    • This is not a red flag but rather is a relationship anxiety hook that says “it would be easier with someone else”. Every relationship has challenges :).

    • Dear ScaredGirl,

      I hope it can give you at least a little relief: sometimes men with minor symptoms of Asperger Syndrome don’t even know they have it until they are adult and read or hear somewhere that maybe it can be the cause of their difficulties. Really, their behaviour, or need for rituals is just seen by other people as parts of personality – in a way “this person is sometimes maybe a little weird, but she/he is ok the way she/he is”. What is important that being diagnosed, they already have a spouse (and also kids) so it seems that the syndrome is definitely not a sentence! I believe your partner is lovely and deserves to be loved. I also recommend a movie “My name’s Khan” – it shows that a relationship with an autistic person can be hard and rewarding at the same time, just as life is not only black or white 😚

    • I can relate to this, as my big spike for the last four or five years has been my wife’s ‘intelligence’. I am very academic, and she is very socially and emotionally gifted but not ‘intelligent’ in the same way as me. I think your spike is a potential gift in forcing your to confront and redefine what ‘normal’ means. We are lucky in fact to be living at a time when neurodiversity is viewed in many quarters as a gift. There are many great books on the topic. You might like to check out the work of psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman.

  5. Hi there Sheryl,

    Thank you so much for always writing such inspiring words.

    I recently realised that I think I have a level of emotional enmeshment with my partner. I feel as though I predict how he will feel about a situation and internalise the thought/ feeling as my own. I’m unable to enjoy things fully unless I think he is enjoying them. My partner has been suffering with mild depression and anxiety for a good two years or more now & while it’s never extreme, it means that I sense his energy is off/ that he doesn’t have as much enthusiasm and doesn’t enjoy things as much as I’d like. Given that I am now recognising a level of emotional enmeshment between us, I feel like as a result, I too don’t enjoy things as much. I went through a period of time during which I felt as though I was responsible for helping him through it all and finding myself frustrated when he continued not to help himself.

    Do you have any advise for me to untangle my thoughts & feelings with his & not let his lack of enthusiasm and energy frustrate me? I am starting to find myself to be resentful toward him at times and recognise that this isn’t healthy. I feel as though I’m blaming him for robbing me of my energy and optimism.

    There are absolutely no red flags. He is wonderful to me and we get on well for the most part…he has also recently begun therapy which I’m very happy about as this is something he
    has been considering for a long time, but there’s always this niggling feeling in me that thinks “will he be like this forever? He often goes through phases of committing to being his best self and then falls of the wagon a few days later”.

    Essentially I wondered if you’ve seen this before and if you had any suggestions on how to ensure his emotional state doesn’t continue to affect mine.

    Sending so much gratitude to you for all of your amazing work. X


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