For many, the holidays are a time that brings people together. Be it surrounded by family or friends, most find themselves celebrating in a crowd of loved ones. With the ongoing COVID pandemic, the holiday season is bound to look quite different this year.
How can we decrease the feelings of loneliness and increase the sense of community when we might be held to tighter restrictions than ever before?
The decision of how to handle the holiday season might appear different family by family but there are some strategies that, when implemented, can be beneficial to ease some of the predicted discomfort and anxiety.
- Cope ahead:
Start your plan for the holiday season in advance. Start planning now… well, after you finish this article, at least. There are the logistical issues to sort out, but there are also new factors to consider and weigh in. Don’t wait until the day of/week of to start your plan. Once you begin thinking ahead you’ll begin feel8ng prepared, and as a result your level of anxiety will decrease.
- Identify the risks and weigh them out:
There is a lot to consider when traveling, or planning a get together this holiday season- and frankly, in general. It is important to look at the data from the CDC to best inform yourself. Identify members of your family/friend group who might be considered ‘at risk’ and determine how to consider this in your plan. This is a time of ‘calculated risks.’ This means that there are actually some risks worth taking- but it’s up to YOU to determine if the benefits outweigh the potential risks.
- Manage expectations:
Once you have made your decision for yourself, create any boundaries you believe would help you feel most comfortable. Do you prefer an outdoor meal? No hugs? A ‘COVID FREE conversation zone’? Whatever it is, what would help you feel more comfortable in the decision you made, and how can you share that with others? Others do not need to UNDERSTAND the boundary but they do need to RESPECT it.
- Supporting your emotions:
Mad? Stressed? Disappointed? Relieved? Confused? Lonely? Honestly, all these emotions and more are completely valid. Reflect on how you feel. How can you best support yourself in that state of being? What do you need when you feel this way? How can you get that need met? It is okay to feel sad that your ideal holiday vision was not met, but is there a way to also create a positive, different, experience? Is there something you can still look forward to? Pumpkin pie, for example?
- Suggest a new plan:
If you decide that you are uncomfortable with a plan that has been made, are you able to come up with an alternative option? Maybe this option is for the whole group, or maybe just for you. Can you create a zoom meal? Share recipes so you all have the same food at the same time? No, this is not the same… nor will it feel the same. It is about getting creative and finding a way to have SOMETHING that scratches the ‘holiday itch.’
- In true 2020 fashion- accept the potential for a change of plans:
While we discussed how beneficial it is to plan in advance, it is also important to recognize that sometimes, the inevitable happens and we must adjust our sails. Maybe this means that your comfort level changes and you rethink your decision. Or maybe this means that the holiday meal isn’t working out how you planned. Whatever the change is, how can you radically accept that “this is what it is” and “because of this, I need_____.”