For a lot of people, the holidays have the potential to be a joyous and fulfilling end to the year. But this isn’t always true for everyone.
Even in a “normal” year, it’s well-researched how the overwhelming pressure of the season can leave us feeling stressed, alienated and alone.
As we all know, (major understatement warning…) this hasn’t been a normal year. As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the most populated cities in North America, the upcoming holidays aren’t going to be the traditional celebration many of us look forward to.
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Here are four key ways to show yourself a little love while you plan out how to make the most of your holidays this year.
1. It’s ok to not feel ok
A cornerstone of mindfulness is being aware of the true nature of our feelings and allowing ourselves to fully feel them. A frequent cause of anxiety and depression stems from the idea that we should feel differently than we do and fight to change it, regardless of circumstances.
The holidays are a tricky time for keeping this type of emotional awareness in balance. There is intense pressure to feel merry and bright, and that your outward showing of this cheerfulness is a direct reflection of how much you love and care about those around you.
This year, one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself is to let go of that expectation.
Many of us will be learning how to cope through our first holidays after losing a family member or friend unexpectedly to COVID-19. Almost all of us will be navigating through it for the first time in greater seclusion, unable to travel to our loved ones or gather in the large group celebrations we’d normally look forward to. For those of us with already complicated relationships with our families or who deal with mixed emotions around the holidays, the added stress this year will make it all feel even worse than before.
All of this is really sad — and that’s ok.
If you feel overcome with grief, that’s ok, too. If you’re wondering “what’s the point?” this year, guess what? Welcome to the That’s OK club.
The best thing you can do for your mental health during the holidays is to give yourself permission to know that your feelings are valid and true.
If you find yourself feeling down:
- Don’t try to shrug it off or force yourself to cheer up
- Find a quiet moment to sit and let yourself feel what you feel
- Try not to judge your feelings as inappropriate or wrong
- Take five deep breaths: inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and exhale for six seconds
If you want to talk about how you’re feeling, you can chat one-on-one with our experienced team of registered nurses. They’re real, live humans, too, and can help give you immediate tips for self-care and how to feel a little bit better.
Coping With Uncertainty
2. The gift of (self) compassion
We talk a lot about giving gifts this time of year. One of the greatest things you can give, to yourself and others, is compassion.
We tend to be really hard on ourselves, especially during the holidays. Usually, it can be about planning the perfect party or making sure you invite the right family members over for dinner. This year, it will be more about how well you’re adapting to restrictions on gatherings and the brand new burden of figuring out the right way to celebrate during a global pandemic.
At some point, you might feel overwhelmed by how terrible a job you think you’re doing.
Try this exercise the next time you catch yourself in some negative self-talk:
- Imagine a best friend or loved one saying the same hyper-critical things about themselves that you’re saying right now about yourself
- Write out the advice you’d give to them
- Read back your own advice out loud and try to accept it for yourself
Typically, we’re much more able to give sympathetic, understanding advice to people we love than to ourselves. A touch of self-compassion is one of the most effective ways to give yourself a break from the harsh critiques you sometimes put in your own way.
Remember, you deserve to treat yourself with just as much empathy as you would easily give to someone you care about.
There’s a lot to think about right now. Check out our COVID-19 resource page to see everything you’ve got access to from assessing symptoms to mental health support and self-care tips.
7 Days to Overcome Negative Self-Talk
3. Be realistic about new virtual traditions
There are lots of ways to connect virtually and create a version of some of the holiday traditions you know and love. A lot of us will be enthusiastic and excited to lean into these new ways to celebrate old favorite pastimes.
The key here is to be realistic. These won’t feel perfect or just like last year, and you shouldn’t expect them to. As both traditional and chosen families shift and grow, so do the holiday rituals we use to celebrate together. Be open to creating some new ones this year and relish in how special but different they are.
Send small, thoughtful gifts and schedule a time to open them together virtually
With record unemployment rates, lots of folks will be thinking about their budgets this year. We often hear it’s the thought that counts, but it doesn’t always feel that way. We can truly embrace the meaningfulness of sharing how much we love someone with a handwritten card or small gift. Check out our Budget-Friendly Gift Guide for examples we love.
Move traditions online when it makes sense
Some activities, like putting up a Christmas tree, lighting a menorah or baking holiday treats, can be done “together” online. Schedule a time to do some of your favorite seasonal activities over Zoom or Facetime. Even better, if you have elderly or at-risk loved ones who live close to you, but can’t travel, make a plan to safely drop off a care package after you’re done. They might not be able to be with you in person, but they can see the love and care you put into your special creations and then find them waiting on their doorsteps.
Turn down the tech pressure
Some of us have basically been living on video calls lately. Others, not so much. Trying to host an entire Thanksgiving dinner online might easily be a bit of a struggle. Don’t feel like duplicating your favorite activities detail-by-detail to a full-fledged online version is the only way to celebrate.
Book a time for everyone to share a pic of what they’re doing, either by text or email. Plan ahead so that everyone is making the same recipe at the same time on the same day. Or send a group invite along with a recipe for a family-favorite cocktail or bottle of bubbly and everyone can join for a communal holiday toast.
Harness Your Creativity
4. Take care of yourself more than ever
Self-care is critical to managing all aspects of your health through stressful times. Our mental, physical and emotional health are deeply connected. While you should definitely take time to mindfully indulge and celebrate, at the same time you want to make sure that you’re giving your holistic health all it needs to keep you grounded, positive and focused.
Don’t think of the holidays as a time to totally abandon all of your healthier habits. There are a lot of things you can’t control (especially during a pandemic), but there are some small ways you can maintain balance while still having a good time:
- Prioritize sleep and try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day as much as possible
- Avoid excessive alcohol, drug, tobacco and cannabis use
- Limit time watching the news and on social media
- Try to get at least 15-20 minutes of activity into your routine 3 times a week
- Have a healthy snack before big holidays meals
- Drink one glass of water every time you toss back any beverage that’s not water
Our full library of Health Programs is ready and waiting to support you with whatever the holiday season throws your way. Check them regularly to get step-by-step daily challenges to help you tackle the new health goals that matter most to you.