CLEVELAND, Ohio — Its the most wonderful time of the year, right?

Holidays typically mean family, fun and good times. However, Cleveland Clinic Psychologist Dr. Susan Albers says this year, mental health professionals are seeing a stark difference: tension, dread and conflict.

What You Need To Know

  • This year, mental health professionals are seeing trension, dread and conflict

  • An expert says to avoid what's called anticipation anxiety

  • She says to plan ahead using three A's: Adjust, Assess and Acknowledge

Dr. Albers says this may be the year to do things differently.

“Holidays often bring up a lot of stress because there are a lot of tasks — cooking, cleaning, traveling. This year, this may be an opportunity to take it easy — to relax and have a stress free holiday.”

She says to plan ahead this holiday season. She uses three “A’s” to do just that: adjust, assess and acknowledge.

“The first is to adjust your expectation. The holidays are not canceled, but we may need to reimagine them a little bit, reconfigure them. There are a lot of traditions that we look forward to that may have to be adjusted this year," she said. "The second is to assess. Every family has to do their own risk assessment of are there any special health needs or concerns, boundaries and what makes you feel safe? And then, the third a is to acknowledge. Communicate really clearly with family members, what the boundaries are what are the expectations are. Are people wearing masks? How far apart they'll be. So everybody is on the same page, I recommend putting it in writing, email or text so everybody can share it very easily.”

Dr. Albers recommends avoiding what's called "anticipation anxiety."

“We create in our heads the worst case scenario of what could happen during the holidays. Remember that these things are possible, but not probable. Stick with what's happening in the moment and avoid creating a lot of additional anxiety.

It's important that if you are seeing family this holiday season, to have a deescalation plan. With differences of opinion, Dr. Albers says It may be easy to find yourself in a heated argument.

“Remember that this too will pass. The decisions that you make about this upcoming holiday doesn't mean that it's going to be for every following holiday. Remember that this is going to be moving forward, and the decisions that we make today may not be the same that we make tomorrow.”

Dr. Albers says many of her clients say they feel guilty about this holiday upcoming season. However, she reminds us it is okay to say no, skip out on holiday events, prioritize your health, and do what you feel is best for you and your family.