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The Holidays and Covid

Halloween just passed and it seems that Thanksgiving is right around the corner. I had to do a double take when I looked at the calendar and a little bit of dread and anxiety crept in. What will the holidays look like this year? What if I’m too tired to even contemplate the holidays? It’s been a long 2020 and the thought of organizing or figuring out the holiday plan can be overwhelming.

The holiday season is already prone to unrealistic expectations: “my family should be like this”, “I’m supposed to feel this warmth just like in the movies”, “the Christmas season should be magical”, “I need to overspend to make sure everyone has a good Christmas” or “we should all get along”. We cram more activities or expectations and end up burning out and unable to enjoy it. Or we can feel this guilt about not spending enough time with family or enjoy spending time with family. The holidays can be both enjoyable and overly stressful and then you add in the back drop of a pandemic and contentious election results and you have a recipe for an overwhelming situation.

And because of Covid the holiday celebrations will look different this year, you may not be traveling, you may not be hosting a large gathering and some of your favorite traditions may be downsized or not occurring all. You may have lost your job due to Covid and now the holidays present an additional stressor.

With all of these circumstances surrounding the holiday season here are some tips for surviving the rest of the year.

Pause and Take A Breath- when you start to experience any unpleasant feelings or have any unhelpful thoughts stop what you are doing, take a pause, take a deep breath in and slow exhale out. Once you’ve done this a few times identify what you are telling yourself. Say it out loud, what is the story line that is running rampant in your head.

Honor your experience- be gentle and compassionate with yourself for what you are feeling.  Do not berate or judge yourself for feeling this way. We are complex human beings and our emotions can be too. We can feel both excited and worried, we can feel both stressed and optimistic. It’s okay, whatever you’re feeling. Be curious about it.

Prioritize what is important and meaningful to you- being busy isn’t necessary to have a good holiday season. Instead of burning the candle at both ends and burning out, scale back your expectations and be present and engaged in the activities that you do want to participate in. What is meaningful to you? What will create lasting memories?

Maintain self care rituals and if you don’t have any adopt some. Set a sleep schedule, eat balanced meals, when stressed take a break, engage in a physical activity that you enjoy, partake in hobbies that are rejuvenating.

Set boundaries for yourself and with others- if you’ve made a commitment to yourself to get more sleep, to maintain a healthy lifestyle, to be more active or to not overspend don’t sacrifice your needs to non-priority tasks or other people’s requests. Also, setting boundaries with others is healthy. It’s okay to set limits of what you are willing to tolerate and not, and it can be done in a healthy and respectful manner. The key is to have a game plan and respond early to any boundary crossing before it becomes something that’s been festering.

Lastly, ask for help when you need it- you don’t have to go at it alone. So often we don’t ask for help but you would be surprised at how often people in our lives want to help and would feel good helping us out.

However you spend your holidays, be present and create meaningful memories whereever you can find them.  

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