If only holidays were like they are in the movies—perfectly wrapped presents, a picture-worthy tree and just the right amount of snow. Unfortunately, many of us find the season more stressful than festive, as we try to “do it all,” often depleting our own emotional and mental health reserves in the process rather than enjoying the true meaning and spirit of the holidays.
Usually this entails running around trying to meet the nonstop demands of cooking, cleaning, shopping and baking, while still managing our responsibilities and relationships. But this year, as COVID-19 spreads, we have the added stress of wondering how we can celebrate safely while we worry about family, friends and the community.
While 2020 has been particularly challenging, it also offers us the opportunity to do things a little differently. This year it may be easier than ever to simplify and focus on what’s important, including our health and our families.
In fact, this year the rules don’t apply! You don’t have to worry about cleaning your house for guests or getting dressed up for a party. You can do things the way that you want to, whether that’s eating cereal instead of cooking up a storm or lounging all day in your PJs.
Now is the time to think about how you want to celebrate this “new” holiday so that it’s still meaningful. Here are some tips on how to prepare and focus on enjoying the moments of the holiday, whatever that looks like to you.
- First, be safe. While we are hopefully on the home stretch, COVID-19 is still an ever-present threat, so of course, the first step is to be aware of and heed the CDC and county guidelines.
- Take a deep breath and acknowledge your feelings. While it can feel freeing to think of this holiday as one with no rules, it’s quite likely you are also experiencing emotions like sadness, frustration, disappointment or feeling overwhelmed. We might not see loved ones or enjoy holiday traditions, and many of our travel plans have been thwarted by the pandemic, which can leave us with a sense of loss. Remember that it’s OK to not be OK.
Make sure to figure out some coping mechanisms, such as reaching out and talking to a friend, a family member, a spiritual leader, doctor or therapist. When you acknowledge and validate your feelings, they can become less overwhelming.
- Get back to basics. Healthy habits are important. Here are some to keep up:
- Sleeping: Maintain a realistic sleep routine, going to bed and waking up at the same time daily.
- Eating: Make sure you are getting in enough nutrition for your physical needs.
- Hydrating: Don’t forget to drink sufficient amounts of water daily; in fact, this could give you more of an energy boost than coffee.
- Exercising: Remember “mood and movement.” You’ll find your mood greatly improved when you incorporate daily movement. Take a walk (maybe a socially distanced look at neighborhood lights); put on music and dance in your living room; or try an online yoga class.
- Recharging: Take time to relax by meditating, doing deep breathing, taking a warm bath or trying aromatherapy.
- Watch your spending. When you’re not with people, it can be easy to get carried away trying to show your love with gifts. Create a budget and stick to it, including everything from your decorating expenses to postage for your holiday card so you don’t have the added stress of unexpected bills.
- Schedule virtual social time. Stay in touch with family and friends and especially those whom you know may be alone. Schedule a Zoom movie night, dinner, holiday toast or game night. It’s more important than ever to create a sense of community, sharing and love.
- Connect the generations. Even if you can’t be together in person, you can find ways to link the generations in your family. For example, create a playlist that includes everyone’s favorite songs, from grandpa to the teenager. Have each person share their favorite holiday memory or recipe with a story about it.
- Consume less media coverage and make more time for Hallmark movies. Yes, we get it, these are very formulaic (love always prevails!). But there’s a reason they are more popular than ever: They are uplifting and positive, providing the break we crave from the daily barrage of coverage about COVID and the economy.
- Disconnect. On that note, make it hard to access your devices, by decorating a basket or box and stowing your electronics for the day. (Yes, you can still tune in to the Hallmark channel!)
- Get creative. With more time on your hands, you can pursue a new hobby. Make homemade decorations for your tree or homemade gifts. You also could make cards with encouraging messages and send them to family or friends who may need a virtual hug.
- Remember gratitude: Have a gratitude jar and fill it with slips of paper where you write down the silver linings you have experienced during the pandemic.
While there’s no question the holiday season will look different, it still can be meaningful. Who knows, you might decide that the slower pace suits you and establish a new tradition of a more relaxed holiday season with fewer expectations.