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How to Stay Sane During Pandemic Holidays

Tips and tools for making the most out of this holiday season!

The holidays are a time for celebration and togetherness, but they can also be a time of increased stress. This holiday season, we are dealing with extra challenges, as COVID issues may prevent many of us from celebrating together in our normal way.

The good news is that these challenges don’t need to derail our holidays, and they may even represent an opportunity for increased closeness or changes that we’ll ultimately value! In this two-part blog series, I will dive into tips and suggestions for how you can stay centered, build new rituals, and honor different family boundaries. Here are three tips to help you reframe and enjoy the holidays.

1. Give yourself permission to grieve, and don’t be afraid to name the problem.

Before we can talk too much about how to make the best of the holidays in COVID, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the fact that this year is different. Give yourself the opportunity to grieve what you’re missing this year. I encourage you not to focus on the differences this year but don’t deny how the changes make you feel.

The current changes can help us value next year more—it’s just like the old saying, “Absence makes the heart fonder!” Fully acknowledge the way the changes this year make you feel without giving in to them. Acknowledging our pain and frustration this new year can also help teach our children resilience as we forge ahead anyway.

Be clear about what’s frustrating to you and your families. Give yourself the chance to mourn and vent, which can set you up to bond together with loved ones!

Action item: Journaling or talking with others can help you get out of your own head! High-functioning individuals are sometimes so good at staying strong that they don’t realize there is constructive value in just naming and addressing the sadness, frustration, or whatever else they may be feeling.

2. Stay centered by giving yourself a one-word theme.

Giving yourself a one-word theme can make it easy to center yourself and snap back to how you want to frame the new holiday situation. Running each problem, situation, and moment through that word can help us stay centered and remember what we want to focus on this holiday season!

For example, if you choose “kindness” as your one-word theme, remind yourself to be kind during each unexpected bump in the road in planning the holidays.

Choose whatever word or concept resonates with you: High-functioning individuals often know where they need to focus based on their intuition, but each person and situation is different.

Action item: Pick a good one-word theme for you and practice framing your life with it! Words like grace, strength, generosity, self-care, ancestors/resilience, role model, storytelling, and more. Put reminders of your word in different places in your physical space to build the habit of refocusing on it.

3. Decorate your space.

Decorating your home is a behavioral way to mark the holiday; plus, it’s a visual reminder of a wonderful thing you have accomplished! Mark off time to decorate, and make it as special as you can: You could even consider (if you’re comfortable) inviting family members to participate.

Engage all five senses in your decorating. You could light a candle, make a holiday snack, and mentally frame this as an important nourishing ritual to celebrate your holiday. Your space can reinforce your sense of identity: Your space can represent who you are and can even help to build your self-esteem.

Along with creating a space that you feel represents who you are, it can also come to stimulate good memories of decorating! This can spark authentic and moving conversations about the importance and significance of the rituals we maintain.

Action item: Have each family member, roommate, or friend pick a room or decoration item. You can decide to split rooms into themes or stick to a common theme for the house! Spend quality time engaging all five senses with your loved ones and create a nourishing and celebratory space for yourself.

4. Finally, give yourself permission to enjoy the silver linings.

I know I said I was only going to give three tips, but this one is too good not to include. One way you can offset the challenges of our new world is by giving yourself permission to enjoy the silver linings. You might feel that it’s wrong or selfish to be happy during a pandemic. I urge you to remember that the better and more balanced you are, the better a resource you’ll be to others.

Action item: Identify your silver linings. Are you excited to save money by not traveling or buying extra gifts for people? Are you relieved to skip seeing relatives you don’t get along with? Or maybe this holiday season will feel less hectic and more calm than others. Make a list of the things that could be considered silver linings this year.

Celebrating the holidays this year will inevitably look a little different, and that’s OK! If we are open to building new traditions, we can create new memories and bring ourselves even closer to our loved ones.

One of the biggest obstacles of the holidays this year is navigating and negotiating celebrating with those who have different boundaries than us regarding COVID. Stay tuned for the second part of this blog for my tips on how to stay connected with family and friends while respecting everyone’s comfort levels!


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