Navigating the Virtual Holidays
The holidays will soon be upon us, and one thing is for certain, they won’t look or feel like previous years. According to the CDC, what most of us do over the holidays – gather together indoors – is exactly what we need to avoid this year because of the risks posed by the coronavirus. But many people are feeling down and could really benefit from spending time with loved ones. So, how can we approach the holidays in a way that keeps us safe and still fills our need for connection? Start with these tips:
- Safety First! Gathering indoors in large groups is a bad choice this year. If you are contemplating a gathering with friends or family, you should carefully consider the location of the gathering, the duration, the number of people, the incidents of COVID in guests’ home communities, and the behaviors of guests prior to and during the gathering. How all those considerations are managed will make a difference in the safety of your event.
- Recreate holiday traditions: Holiday traditions provide us with predictability, a sense of meaning, and a feeling of belonging. For these reasons, upholding traditions this holiday season may be more important than ever, even though we’ll have to modify their implementation. Plan ahead to figure out how to recreate in person traditions in a virtual environment. If you play flag football on Thanksgiving, get everyone connected for a game of “Madden for Xbox”. Cook and eat together via Zoom. Attend a virtual faith service together. Watch the same movie at the same time. With some creativity and planning, the possibilities are endless.
- Communicate your plans: Letting family and friends know that you have decided not to gather together may be difficult. Others may not agree with your decision and be angry or resentful. So long as you make a decision that is right for your family, you can feel confident that you’re doing the right thing. You should acknowledge that others may be hurt or disappointed, but don’t feel compelled to manage their emotions or convince them that your decision is the right one.
- Take time for gratitude and remembrance: This year might be the opportunity we all need to slow down and reflect on all that we cherish – including our close relationships. Take time this holiday season to watch old family movies, create a collage of past holidays, or write letters (good old fashioned letters) to loved ones that you cannot be with this year.
- Plan for 2020 Holidays Part 2: The holidays are just dates on the calendar. What they represent and the meaning they hold can be celebrated any time of the year. Plan a modified holiday celebration on the actual 2020 holiday dates, then also schedule a full, old school holiday celebration sometime in the future, maybe late Spring when (hopefully) the risk won’t be as high and we can comfortably gather outdoors.
- Keep up with your healthy habits: Hopefully, at some point during this pandemic, you have embraced healthy habits and self-care strategies. Are you going for a walk each day? Taking time for meditation? Exercising? Crafting? Whatever your healthy habits are, it’s important to maintain those behaviors during what is sure to be a stressful time.
- Honor those who are no longer with you: If you have lost a loved one, recently or years ago, it may feel good to take time to honor their memory this holiday season. Place a special centerpiece at the holiday table, or perhaps light a candle. Place their picture in a prominent spot, or even write them a letter.
- Acknowledge the emotions of sadness and disappointment: All of your efforts to make this year’s holidays special may still fall short. After all, nothing can replace being physically present with loved ones. These tips can take the sting out of virtual holidays, but you will likely still be left with feelings of sadness, disappointment, and longing. Rather than fight those feelings, acknowledge them. Make a place for them at the table, but let them know they will not be invited back next year.
If you or a family member are struggling with stress and anxiety of the upcoming holidays, give us a call to schedule an appointment with one of our clinicians, 978-327-6600.
Appointments are currently being provided via telehealth.