GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Winter can be an already difficult time due to illness and stress, but this will be the first full winter in Michigan amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Lyndsay Volpe- Bertram, a clinical psychologist with Spectrum Health, says there are new ways to deal with the added challenges that accompany the COVID-19 spike, including isolation and family stresses.

Volpe-Bertram says it’s now more important than ever not to isolate yourself though some people are already prone to do so during the winter months. She argues the weather change coupled with isolation will just grow your stress and anxiety more during already difficult times. 

Instead, she suggests utilizing virtual resources some may not have known about. Things like Zoom happy hours, online classes and other ways to interact with people in ways perhaps not considered in the past.

Volpe-Bertram says these methods will become increasingly more important as many lose the ability to gather in small groups outside. 

“We want people to be especially proactive this year rather than reactive,” Volpe-Bertram said. “There’s so much we can do about planning and things we can do ahead of this that we didn’t have when the pandemic started. So rather than be thrust into this position of ‘we can’t do anything, oh my God this is terrible.’ It’s really about planning ahead right now to think about how I’m going to survive the best way I can once the colder weather starts to kick in.”

Especially stressful, explaining all these changes to your children, including holiday traditions possibly being affected. 

Those tough conversations centered around families and how they will handle the holidays as federal and state health officials suggest avoiding gatherings this Thanksgiving and Christmas to prevent the spread of the virus, especially for older more vulnerable family members. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines say travel should still be limited and groups of people gathering, especially indoors should be limited. 

Planning ahead with your family members and friends for what your holiday gathering will look like, Volpe-Bertram says could make all the difference. 

“If the holidays are going to look different this year, which they will, it’s really important not to catastrophize and think that, you know, they’re going to be ruined forever and really important not to think that they’re going to be ruined. It’s just different,” Volpe-Bertram said. “It’s a great year to shake off some of the things that we don’t typically like to do. If you have family that you constantly have conflict with, this is a really easy way to create some of that distance this year.”

Reducing holiday stress can also come in the form of focusing less on shopping. If you have children, Volpe-Bertram says it’s important to frame this season as different, not bad. Kids will likely respond positively and learn what traditions are most important to your own family.