The Holidays & COVID-19

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Article by:  Lauren Cloud, LMFT

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” …under normal circumstances. Many of us are sitting with very strong, uncomfortable feelings about the holidays due to the pandemic. Many of us will not be able to see our families or engage in our usual rituals. While we are all still figuring out how to do life in a pandemic and no one has a clear-cut answer as to how to handle this, I humbly offer a few suggestions:

Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. Gratitude is a key component to happiness regardless of your background or circumstances. Be very intentional about engaging in gratitude practices this season. It’s entirely too easy to focus on what we don’t have or what we miss right now, so it’s more important than ever to focus on what we do still have and what is still going well. There are several ways you can practice gratitude, but I am a big fan of these:

  • Write at least three things you are grateful for or that went well at the end of each day. Don’t just list the “cop out” answers like “I have a home, I have food to eat.” These obviously are very important, but get good at seeing all the little things you might otherwise miss. For example, if you normally fight with your spouse and raise your voice, if you tried to be different but still got into a fight, that’s progress! It’s pretty rare that people just start doing things perfectly once they’ve decided to change. Honor the baby steps!
  • When I worked a very hectic schedule with chaos surrounding me on the regular, I would take time between my sessions to write good things that were happening in my planner. At first, I could only put a few things. Eventually, I had to get a separate notebook because I got much better at seeing all the good things happening during my day. Anything and everything counts! If I really enjoyed getting to be in the sun for a few minutes on my break, I put that. If I loved the food I had for lunch, I put that.

Do things for others. This could help with our craving for connection during the holiday season. Write letters! Send little gifts! Send someone an uplifting message! Volunteer in safe ways! Pay for the person behind you at Starbucks! After all, the holidays are about giving. Spread the joy and, in turn, love the good vibes you will have. Make joy and kindness another pandemic during this weird, dark time.

Prioritize fun. We are all extremely stressed right now and there are many unknowns. It’s important to make time for fun any way you can.

Come up with new rituals or adapt your old ones to the time! Can’t do what you normally do during this season? Create new rituals! I know someone whose family does “gag gifts” at Christmas and there is usually a stupid, immature theme. This creates such a fun atmosphere, but I imagine this could still be done by shipping packages and doing video calls.

Take it easy on yourself. Be gentle to yourself and to others. This is a very hard time with no clear end in sight. Be a force of good.