Addressing mental health during the pandemic and the holidays

Published: Nov. 23, 2020 at 5:55 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The holidays are already a stressful time of year but coupling that with COVID-19 can make it even more difficult, especially for those who’ve had to make changes to their holiday traditions. So, Dakota News Now spoke to a mental health expert about dealing with the holidays during the pandemic.

“Really, seriously, how are you doing?” asked Jill Franken, Sioux Falls Public Health Director at a coronavirus briefing Monday.

That’s the question health officials are urging everyone to ask themselves as we continue to weather the pandemic heading into the holiday season.

“We are all trying to battle an unseen enemy and that can lead to feelings of stress, anxiety, fear, and even sadness. And I just want you to know that these are very real and very normal feelings that you can all be experiencing at this time,” said Franken.

Karla Salem, an Integrated Health Therapist at Sanford says the key this holiday season is to find alternative ways to stay connected. Although some folks have had to cancel their regular Thanksgiving plans this year, she says that doesn’t mean you have to be alone.

“We’re only as alone as our brain allows us to be alone. So there are always kind of ideas to think about and usually in terms of other people and what can you do for other people,” said Salem.

“The best remedy for feeling lonely and isolated is to do something.”

One idea she has is to reach out to people you haven’t talked to in awhile by calling, texting, or video chatting. Check up on them and see how they’re doing. Not only will make them feel good, but it could lift your spirits as well.

“And by doing that you automatically start thinking about someone else other than yourself,” said Salem.

Also, focus on what parts of the holiday you enjoy and can still take part in: such as decorating, preparing your favorite holiday foods, or sending out Christmas cards.

“You can use that imagination and that creativity. Figure out what it is you love about holidays and going down the basis part of what that idea is.”

Those struggling are recommended to reach out to their health provider. You can also call the 2-1-1 Helpline Center if you need someone to talk to.

211 Helpline resources are also now available in their new 211 app. The app is available for download in the Google Play and Apple stores.

The Helpline Center connects people with information and support for areas like finances, family, and mental health. All calls, texts, and application requests are free and confidential.

For other helpful resources, you can also visit

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