By Sarah O’Leary, Estes Therapy
With the winter holidays come stress – holiday shopping, final projects at work, family gatherings, and more. You can really feel the shorter days as you try to fit everything in. All that juggling, strain, and stress happens during the holidays every year, now we have a global pandemic on top of it. We have to figure out how to keep our loved ones safe this year while also staying connected and doing some much needed celebrating.
Here are some guidelines to get you through this holiday season, COVID and all.
1. Take time to reflect on your boundaries.
That means personal boundaries, work boundaries, COVID boundaries, and relationship boundaries. I recommend starting with your COVID boundaries. How many people are you comfortable being around? To what capacity? And what are their interactions with others like? It would be lovely if, even just for a day, we could pretend like everything was back to normal. But the reality is we can’t. We have to acknowledge that there is still a global pandemic going on. Be realistic with what your comfort is in comparison with your relatives. Don’t put your personal comfort aside because of pressure from friends or family.
Work is also unique at this time. Don’t confuse your free time with your available time. If work is asking for more hours for the end of the year projects, just because you are home and don’t have plans doesn’t mean you are available. You still need time for your family, your partner, and YOU. Remember, you don’t need a reason to say no. If you are pressured into giving a reason you can simply say you have family plans, and if a boss is particularly pushy, maybe try something like: “We have family plans this year. I wish I could help more but with everything that’s going on I really need to be spending the time with my family.”
2. Reflect on the Holidays and Reject What You Want
Something that comes with such a unique time is unique opportunity. A self-disclosure moment: my brother and I are the only members of our family in the United States. So, Thanksgiving has never been a big deal for me. I did some tag-a-long Thanksgivings and some “Friendsgiving”s, but one year I did nothing. I wasn’t feeling well so I stayed home, and all my roommates at the time were elsewhere for the holidays. I had the place to myself. There were zero expectations. No obligations. And no need to check my email, messages, or phone. I had a day OFF. Completely, 100% off. Now, there is no going back for me. I’ve moved on to a new tradition of camping for Thanksgiving – alone or with my partner. It’s still a day to reflect, be thankful, and allow myself to focus on decompressing and relaxing, but I’m doing so in a way that works best for me. That’s my long way of saying COVID is giving us a unique opportunity this year to keep the traditions we truly love, and get rid of the ones we don’t. Are you indifferent to having a Christmas tree in your house every year, but get one anyway? Well, this year don’t, no one will be around besides you to see it anyway. Do you love making rugelach so much you don’t know what you’ll do with all the inevitable extra? Bake them up and deliver them to loved ones (taking precaution). Have you always wished you and your intimate family could just watch silly movies all day in your PJs? Now’s the year to try.
Are you indifferent to having a Christmas tree in your house every year, but get one anyway? Well, this year don’t, no one will be around besides you to see it anyway. Do you love making rugelach so much you don’t know what you’ll do with all the inevitable extra? Bake them up and deliver them to loved ones (taking precaution). Have you always wished you and your intimate family could just watch silly movies all day in your PJs? Now’s the year to try.
3. Mourn Your Losses
This year we are all facing loss. “Upkeep the traditions you love” isn’t entirely possible with lock-downs and travel restrictions. Do what you can to create a new tradition or rework your treasured tradition the best you can. Utilize technology, and give your technology impaired relatives a call to walk them through it. Zoom, HouseParty, Google Meets and even Facebook (to a limited capacity) all have group video options and are free. Acknowledge that it might not be or feel the same this year, and that’s okay. Give yourself time and space to mourn your losses. Take time to reflect on what you’re grateful for, this will help balance out thinking of your losses and keep you from going down a negative spiral. Write these down – in your phone, a journal, a Google doc, papers in a jar, a photo collage, whatever works for you!
Of course there are bigger losses this year. The financial impact is real, adding more stress to an already stressful time. And there is the loss of health and the loss of loved ones for some. Take extra care to be gentle with yourself. Take time to honor your loved ones, and try to be present in the moment for those who are still with you (in person or virtually). You don’t need to face the loss alone. Reach out to friends and family, and reach out to a therapist. Even if you don’t set up an appointment yet, make a few calls and start the process, save the therapists’ numbers that you think might be a good fit. This will make it easier when the time comes and you do want to set up an appointment.
Give us a call at 619-558-0001 to speak to our intake team and get started with a therapist at Estes Therapy.
COVID or not, self-care is essential this time of year. Take time to take care of yourself. Running on empty only leads to more stress, lower energy, and more illness. Being stressed literally weakens your immune system! This is ESPECIALLY true now with COVID and its impacts. Take some time to think of self-care activities. Do you have a favorite scent? Game? Movie? Song? Activity? Write these down – now. Having a list on hand and somewhere visible will help you actually follow through with your self-care activity. Whatever you decide to do this Thanksgiving (and upcoming winter holidays), set aside some “you” time. A solid hour. Read a book, take a long shower, cook or bake (IF that is something that genuinely makes you feel rejuvenated), take a nap… do whatever feels right for you.
5. Do something special
Especially with COVID, working from home, and lock-downs, it can feel like Groundhog Day. Do something to make the holidays special. Whatever makes sense for you and your budget. Maybe that means take-out from your favourite restaurant. Maybe it’s watching your childhood favorite holiday movies. Maybe it’s turning off your devices and going camping! There is so much going on in the world and in our own personal lives right now that taking a day to celebrate can really improve your mood.
The holidays are a hard time for a lot of individuals, couples, and families. COVID and its effects have only exacerbated that this year. You are not alone. There is comfort in knowing we are all going through this together, albeit to different degrees and effects. Reach out to friends and loved ones, even just to say hello (or send a funny photo). We are here for you at Estes Therapy. Don’t wait until after the holidays, reach out now to get the help and support you need.