I know that the holidays can be very difficult in terms of our mental health. Sure, holidays are a time for joy, peace, reflection, and family, but lets face it sometimes it doesn't feel so merry and bright. This year will be even more tumultuous as we have been enduring a pandemic and our usual gatherings are filled with question marks and tension. How do we make it through a set of holidays in a situation that we have never had to endure during our lifetime? I hope these next few paragraphs will give you some guidance in a time that can feel so uncertain.
First, I would like to encourage you to release expectations of what the holidays “should” look like this year. This is actually a tip I give out every year to those who are grieving but even more so this year as we battle Covid-19. Your expectations could lead to disappointment due to the fact that many holiday gatherings will be different this year. Perhaps you are battling with how to properly celebrate and keep those you love safe? The stress this holiday season will be unsurpassed due to this very fact. Please, I encourage you, be gentle with everyone. Many people are hurting from financial strain, to household changes, to relationships that are tense. Whether we want to admit it or not the pandemic has brought about significant tension in families, friends, and of course our society at large. Our holiday season will reflect these tensions as well. I offer you the opportunity to release expectations, choose to start a new tradition this year. Choose an option that you feel good about and that you find significant meaning in.
One example of releasing expectations and embracing a different path is in what I have seen one family make a decision to do. They do not feel that it is best for them to get together due to high risk individuals in their family, so they have decided to each sponsor a family to give back to. Whatever money they would have spent on food and travel is being reinvested into an organization or individual families that they know are in need. They are disappointed but they have found a way to release their expectations and embrace an alternative to celebrate the Christmas season.
Second, I want to encourage you to practice some extra self care. That means be very intentional about doing activities that enhance your feeling of rest and relaxation and avoid activities that bring on undue stress. Some examples of this may include the following:
Take a 5 min walk outside and see if this lifts your mood.
Be clear what you can and can't do. Saying “No” can be very healthy and knowing what you can say yes to is also vital.
Ask for help, do not be afraid to ask someone for help. If something is beyond your capacity to handle there is no shame in asking for assistance.
Seek professional help, such as a counselor, to process your thoughts and feelings with.
The main thing is be kind and gentle this year to others and yourself. People are making many decisions during the holidays that perhaps you do not agree with due to health standards or you feel their decision is not in the best interest of everyone involved. Even if we disagree we can be kind to one another and respect each other's boundaries and decisions. The holidays are not easy and right now it is even more difficult as grief and anxiety grip so many in our world. Please consider the tips I have outlined and remember we will make it through this and we need each other to make that happen.