Many look to the holiday season as a joyous time for friends and family. For others, this time can bring on or worsen stress, anxiety, and depression. And, while this has always been the case, 2020 is proving to intensify every emotion we typically feel. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many have lost loved ones and will be missing people this year. Due to nationwide travel restrictions, our usual travel to see friends and family may not be happening. Many people have lost jobs and homes, and are dealing with financial stress. Additionally, healthcare workers and essential employees are working extra hours while worrying about their own health and the health of their families.
My plea this holiday season is to give everyone some grace, including yourself. Things are not going to look like they always do, and change is difficult for most people, especially when we didn’t ask for it. However, that doesn’t mean you have to brace for a terrible season! Instead, you just may have to change your expectations or work a little harder to bring that light to the holiday season. Here are a few helpful tips.
1. Start or continue with therapy
2. Embrace your feelings
When you take time to slow down and really connect with how you are feeling, it can make the experience less overwhelming. This year has been so difficult in so many ways and the stress that you are feeling could be connected to a wide variety of things—the holidays just being one of them. Take time to identify your emotions so you can start to make a plan for coping with them. People do this in a variety of ways: journaling, talking to a friend, meditation, or therapy.
3. Set realistic expectations
No matter what, 2020 is going to look a little different from years past. Getting together with the people you typically spend the holidays with or keeping the traditions you typically keep might not be feasible this year. It’s completely normal to feel upset over this! You are allowed to grieve the traditions you are missing but make sure to also check your expectations. Get yourself out of a negative headspace by adjusting and setting realistic goals.
4. Make the most of the celebrations you do have
Even though it might not be all you ever dreamed of, this holiday season is still salvageable! Find ways to enjoy the holidays with your immediate family. If you need some suggestions, consider driving around and looking at houses that are decorated, baking holiday cookies, playing games with loved ones over Zoom, lighting the menorah, or decorating a gingerbread house. You may even find you create some new traditions that you’ll keep going forward.
5. Express gratitude
This is, perhaps, the most important thing you can do! Demonstrate what the holiday season is truly about and think about the things and people for whom you are grateful. This has been a year full of overwhelming anxiety and fear. Make sure you take time to think about and be grateful for the important things in your life, however large or small they may be.