In 2020, our options turned from nearly limitless to severely limited in terms of ways to spend our holidays. For many who remain immunocompromised or are otherwise taking precautions with social gatherings, gone are the days of having to create an hourly schedule of time spent with various extended families, deciding how much time to spend enduring conversations about politics or our romantic or career goals, or feeling guilty about the online-to-in-store ratio of Christmas shopping.
With a global pandemic causing both community and family stress, everyone has been forced to reconsider or modify the traditional ways in which we previously spent the holidays.
But while this year has been a time to mourn some of what normalcy means for us, it might also be an opportunity to evolve our thinking about how we might spend the holidays on our own terms.
At THIRA Health, one of our core philosophies is rooted in helping our patients embark on a journey that addresses their unique needs as a whole person. The holidays can be stressful, sometimes unnecessarily so. To manage stress, consider the following options.
Be Intentional About Your Holiday
We often go to extreme lengths to accommodate those around us during holidays — for a multitude of reasons, both good and bad — which can in turn leave us feeling exhausted and in search of a reset.
So, what if, instead of decking the halls, we simply forget the halls and created new traditions that still satisfy our yearning for familiar celebratory rituals?
Let’s be intentional this year about how we spend our time, our resources, and where and with whom we spend our energy. Since many of us will spend our holidays in a socially-distanced mode from home, here are some alternative ways we can use this holiday season to spread cheer for all to hear.
Have Yourself a Merry Little “Me Day”
Holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas have become cultural events that symbolize love and togetherness; however, the realities of the pandemic, with difficulty traveling and the requirements of social distancing, are redefining what “togetherness” means.
Perhaps, in light of current events, we need to rethink how we spend our time this holiday season.
Consider what it might be like to feel radically unified and together with yourself. Use this time to take an inventory of the year that has passed, the relationships you’ve had or lost, as well as the breakthroughs, successes, or avenues of growth that emerged.
Here are some ways you can engage in a “merry little me day”:
- Journal about your feelings and responses to the change in holiday tradition.
- Create a list of things, people, places you are grateful for.
- Treat yourself to sumptuous meals.
- Plan a lineup of your favorite holiday or non-holiday films.
Last Christmas, I Gave You Too Much
In order to do the holidays differently, challenge yourself to practice what it feels like to say “no,” or use the DEAR MAN DBT skill of interpersonal effectiveness.
- I won’t be coming over for Christmas dinner because I don’t feel comfortable around people without masks.
- What are the plans for remaining socially distant while we’re visiting?
- I don’t feel comfortable talking about this.
- I’m choosing to stay at home this year out of love and consideration for everyone’s health, and I hope you can respect my reasons for that.
I’ll be Home for Christmas
Whether you are in your own home or your childhood home, ensure that it is a place of safety for you. Some alternative ways of being “home” for Christmas while physically distant might involve putting on your favorite Christmas film from childhood, planning a group FaceTime session with friends or family, looking at old scrapbooks from holidays past, or lighting a candle with a familiar or calming smell. If the holidays involve a level of grief for you, maybe being “home” means writing a letter to a lost loved one, listening to their favorite music, and otherwise honoring their memory with loving action.
Rocking Around the Living Room
Create a playlist of your favorite songs from the year and have a dance party in your living room. Put on cozy socks and pajamas and just allow yourself to feel comfortable in your space. Moving and laughing increases our feel-good hormones such as serotonin and dopamine, while also paying respect to the inner child within all of us that remembers the innocent joy of the holidays.
All I Want for Christmas is Peace
This year has been a challenge for many of us. Although the holidays typically signify the end of a year, many hold their breath in trepidation of what the next twelve months will bring. Doing things that bring you peace and joy during the holidays is crucial to finding inner peace year-round.
We have considered many ways to do holidays differently, both out of necessity and desire, but the path forward is learning to find peace every day, again and again. Take a deep breath. Read a comforting book or poem. Smell the air around you and practice mindfulness. Your peace is right within you as the holidays roll by.
For more information on grieving, coping, and getting through the holidays, visit us at THIRA Health to see how our therapeutic programs may help.