The holiday season is upon us!
As we embark upon this time in which families traditionally come together and celebrations are abundant, the thought of planning for them during the pandemic is weighing heavily on people’s minds. As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, many people are shunning their holiday traditions to keep themselves and their loved ones safe, but are now experiencing a different type of stress… replacing the hustle and bustle of having too much to do during the holiday season with uncertainty, isolation and the loss of routine and tradition.
This disruption and shift in our holiday expectations can heighten emotions of loss, loneliness, anxiety, tension, sadness, and much more. Everywhere we turn, we are reminded that it is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year.” While for some that may be true, yet for others the holiday season is wrought with powerful triggers such as songs, scents, and rituals. The holidays may also serve as a reminder of what does not exist—a time in which to celebrate, cook, decorate, and rejoice with loved ones that may not be present this year.
As a trauma informed therapist, I will be the first to say this year’s holiday season has its own compounded needs that we need to address with care and mindfulness. What can we do within ourselves, our families, and our social circles to embrace these upcoming weeks into the new year?
First, think about how the holiday season impacts you and your loved ones personally. Acknowledge this year will be different in many ways and notice the feelings you have in response to this fact. Let yourself be sad. Let yourself be angry. Let yourself mourn the loss of what the holidays are ‘supposed to be’. Ask yourself, “What helps and what hurts?” When you give yourself a moment to recognize these feelings, your mind will feel freer to let go and find hope in the present. Allowing yourself to grieve the loss of all that 2020 may have robbed us of this year, can give space for new opportunities within this season and into the new year.
Second, create meaningful rituals and be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect and may not be like last year. As we face transitional times, traditions and rituals may need to transition as well. Choose a few to hold on to and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your family, friends and loved ones can’t come to your home, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos. Or meet virtually on a video call. Even though your holiday plans may look different this year, you can find ways to celebrate. Remain connected to the idea and meaning behind the traditions so that kids (and adults) feel like that normalcy is still there.
Third, and most importantly, take time for you! Be kind to yourself! Breathe! Taking a break and walking away from what you’re doing for a minute or two allows you to reflect on what you are feeling. Take some deep slow breaths in a quiet space. If you can address the source of stress at that moment, deal with it. If not, write it down and prioritize what needs to be done first. In essence, practicing mindfulness! Bringing our attention to the present moment with an element of nonjudgement and acceptance; noticing when we get caught up in thoughts about the past or the future and returning our attention to the present.
We have all had a tough year. We have had to figure out new ways of living. Don’t beat yourself up over things you can’t control. Do the best you can to the best of your ability and give yourself credit for making it through. Let us release all that 2020 has unfolded and embrace the HOPE that awaits us in the present and into the new year!
Wishing you all the warmest blessings this holiday season and HOPE for the New Year.
“Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us.” Samuel Smiles
Be and remain well,
Deidre McLeod, MS LPC
If your loved ones, friends, or maybe even yourself, are struggling to find your best mental health and HOPEFULNESS, please contact us to schedule an appointment at:
Cornerstone Centers for Wellbeing
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