How to Take Care of Yourself During a Pandemic Holiday Season
- Dec 01, 2020
- 3 min
The December holiday season is usually associated with a time of joy, laughter, fun, and time with loved ones (and maybe not-so-loved ones). However, this year’s exceptional situation of the pandemic brings with it experiences we have never had to contemplate before. During this unique time, you may be noticing that your stress levels are greater than before. If we are not careful, stress can have a deleterious effect on our wellness.
Here are some ways to manage the holidays during these unprecedented times.
- Acknowledge that this year is different
As with so many other aspects of 2020, this holiday season will require greater attention to safety. Begin by accepting the reality that this year is probably going to look different from years past. Maintaining psychological flexibility during these circumstances will assist with these changes. Allow yourself to acknowledge that while this season may not look the way you hoped it would, there is still room for joy if you choose to let it in. This perspective can allow you to face the facts without being weighed down by comparisons with what cannot be.
- Reflect on your reason for the season
Accept that this year will likely have a list of things you are unable to do versus previous years. Maintaining social distancing, abiding by orders from health authorities, and other measures will impact our activities, but this does not mean that you still can’t have a meaningful celebration within your current context. Take time to align with your values, and recognize what is important to you. If you reflect on this at the beginning of the season, you can check from time to time to make sure you are aligning with your true self.
- Take care of yourself
The holiday season is often accompanied by an increase in social functions, even during a pandemic, albeit less so. However, the planning, shopping, and preparations will still require dedicated time and thus potentially stress. This is also the time of year where we spend much of our time thinking about others; how to include them, what to buy them, etc, which makes it easy to forget about ourselves. However, if you want to be able to tend to others, it’s essential that you take care of yourself too. Investing in your well-being will allow you to be more present, engaged, energized, helpful, and healthy.
- Know your limits
A natural response to an external pressure that disrupts your equilibrium is stress. And it is inevitable. We all experience stress, but how we experience it differs from person to person. Increase your awareness as to what your specific signs are of stress. Knowing these will help you manage the stress by allowing for earlier intervention. For example, say you tend to get nervous in big social gatherings, and perhaps you realize that with your risk factor of diabetes, the pandemic anxiety exacerbates your stress levels. Be mindful of this and consider attending only select events where your safety is assured. Knowing your stressors empowers you to be cognizant of your limits. Being aware of your limits also helps you to appropriately infuse timely self-care, such as deep breathing, taking a break, asking for help, or allowing yourself to rest.
- Share your boundaries with loved ones
As a result of these extraordinary times, many of us are likely constructing what our boundaries are with respect to the holiday season. In order to share these boundaries with loved ones, we have to know what they are. If we do not know what they are, we cannot expect others to respect them. Decide what your boundaries are and be sure to share them with your loved ones and ask if they have any they would like to share. Don’t let the awkwardness of these kinds of conversations hinder you from having proactive conversations. Some guidelines may include how you would like to handle hugging or potluck style meal sharing. It tends to be easier to have these conversations proactively than it is to enforce damage control when boundaries are crossed.
- Pursue your delight
It can be easy to get sidetracked by all you cannot have this year, but take these circumstances as an opportunity to create new traditions. Keeping your reasons for the season at hand can help develop these new traditions. Maybe this year you choose to be a bit more creative, step out of your normal routine, or even explore new opportunities that you may not have considered in the past.
- Ask for help
Your social system and network has long been known to be a protective factor in stress management. Right now, many individuals are not just feeling distanced, but also lonely. While loneliness pre-dates COVID-19, the pandemic has amplified this mental health concern and makes support more important than ever before.
Any of the tips highlighted in this blog can be explored with one or several others. For example, a dinner chat with your partner, a family meeting to plan for the holidays, attending a virtual support group, or a telehealth session with a mental health professional.
- The present is a present
There is a propensity to think about the past, during the holidays, including the year behind us, the traditions that have evolved, the relationships that ended, and the lives that we have lost. It can also be a time that prompts stress about the future. We cannot time travel to the past or future. While it may be easier said than done, closely hold on to the present of the present. This can take time, patience, and practice. Be mindful about creating spaces where you can be in-the-moment, free from all that has happened, and the unknown of what is to come.
- Remember the gift of gratitude
Gratitude can help us broaden our perspective. This is an awesome cheap and flexible coping skill because it can be done anywhere and doesn’t cost a thing. Appreciation is a gift that you can give yourself, but you may also choose to share your thankfulness with others. Particularly in this pandemic, you may find it easy to catalogue all the bad that came with 2020. If you catch yourself in a negative thinking pattern, try to reflect on all that you are grateful for, not to diminish your difficulties, but to assist you in seeing what your struggles might be overriding. Actively sharing gratitude with others can develop connections and ignite the warmth in your holiday gatherings.
Bernadette van der Boom-Bebb