This holiday season will undoubtedly be a unique one. You may not see many of your loved ones or experience the usual traditions. This unusual end to the year means that looking after yourself is all the more important. Here are some ways to start the holiday season in a way that brings you peace and joy, no matter how challenging your surroundings may feel like:
- Acknowledge that this year is different: Start by accepting the reality that this year is likely going to look different from previous years, but there is still room for happiness if you choose to let it in. Psychological flexibility can help you to cope with this unique holiday season.
- Communicate your boundaries: It is likely that many of us are concerned about communicating our pandemic-related boundaries to friends and family this holiday season. To communicate your boundaries, you first need to set them based on local public health guidelines, your comfort level and common sense. Then, let your friends and family know about your limitations. Do not worry about how they will react, as these should be common considerations in the setting of a pandemic.
- Stay technologically connected: In this distanced time, it can be difficult to evoke the festive cheer of the season. However, this pandemic has prompted us to embrace the use of technology to stay connected better than ever before. With that being said, our increased technology use does come with its own concerns as unhealthy use can lead to symptoms of stress and depression. Let your emotions guide you in finding that balance between staying healthily connected versus feeling overwhelmed by technology.
- Try to continue your healthy habits: With all the gluttony and lack of routine that is typical of the holiday season, it is important to try to maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen. This can reduces stress, improves mood and concentration, and combat depression. As little as just ten minutes of exercise daily triggers the same hormonesin your brain targeted by anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications.
- Embrace the present: One great way to start embracing the present moment is by taking a few minutes to find one thing you feel good about right now, and then lingering on that thought for as long as you can. When you stop trying to make your holiday fit an ideal, you open up space to savor the holiday as it is.
In the end, if you are unable to feel festive during the holidays, know that you are not alone. While the common problem of loneliness and depression during holidays pre-dates COVID-19, the pandemic has inevitably amplified this mental health concern. Many of us have suffered loss, anxiety and depression this year, unlike ever before. If you feel that you will benefit from social support, seek it. Otherwise, reach out to a professional to help navigate your way through what may be a very challenging time for you.
Here’s wishing you a lovely holiday season and the best for 2021!