By Nicole Nielsen

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s hard to believe we are about to spend another holiday in a pandemic. And for some, this Thanksgiving could be the first time families gather in almost two years.

It’s the reason experts say watching your mental health, is more important than ever.

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“If we are walking into a community of people that we love, we have a preconception about how we hope it goes, and often time it just doesn’t unfold that way,” said Dr. Sylvia Gearing, the Director of GearingUp Counseling in Plano.

She says for some, the expectations of the holidays this year may be extra anxiety inducing.

“The pandemic has really divided our families, we haven’t been able to see people for months, if not years. Some families that I know are reuniting for the first time after a year and a half of quarantine. It’s been really upsetting for people.” Dr. Gearing said.

Not only has the pandemic made the idea of gathering a little more nerve-racking, but it’s also heightened feelings of depression and anxiety surrounding things like finances or lost loved ones.

“Everybody is glad to see each other, but there is also a lot of pain and dysregulation that’s gone on the last year and a half.”

And new this year, extra anxiety about the dreaded vaccine conversation at the dinner table.

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Dr. Gearing says your best bet is to try to avoid the topic if it feels sensitive, and of course be as respectful as you can when discussing with other’s who feel differently than you.

“A lot of people are feeling very anxious right now and have very strong opinions about a lot of things including vaccinations.”

With so much on folk’s minds, the Mayo clinic released tips for coping with holiday anxiety and depression as a whole.

Some of which include acknowledging your feelings, reaching out if you feel lonely or isolated, learning to say no, and of course setting aside differences with others.

You can find a full list of tips, here. Stress, depression and the holidays: Tips for coping – Mayo Clinic

While Dr. Gearing says the best thing you can do, is give yourself grace.

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“We need to be gentle with ourselves right now and understand that anxiety is a normal reaction.”

Nicole Nielsen