The smell of a turkey roasting in the oven, the pumpkin pie cooling on the counter, my mom in her apron in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on dinner, the house warm with anticipation that soon the family would be there to celebrate the holiday. These are a few of the memories I have from my life of celebrating the holidays. Whether it is Thanksgiving, Christmas, Channukah, Kwansa or celebrating the winter solstice. We all have traditions this time of year that many of us look forward to. We gather around the table to share our stories, eat some good food and give thanks, express our joy and wonder and connect with one another.
In my family we would play games and laugh, getting caught up on what each one had been doing since the last time we got together. I love this time year – especially the fall colors but also anticipating being able to slow down a little and be with the ones I love the most. This year has brought us so many challenges – more than we had ever imagined.
This year we must do things in a brand-new way so that we can be connected without being with each other in person. The COVID-19 pandemic and the shelter-in-place orders as well as the recent surge in people testing positive for the virus have put a halt to many of the traditional ways we celebrate. So now is the time for creativity and flexibility as we look at new traditions, new ways of celebrating and not losing hope during these trying times.
Here are a few ideas for managing during the holidays.
- If you cannot be with the ones you love don’t despair. Make the feast and celebration that makes you feel good. If you like a fancy meal with a nicely set table; of if you like a casual affair where you stay in comfy clothes all day and watch your favorite movies – then create that – even if it’s just you one other person.
- Zoom has been an amazing asset for many; allowing us to connect with people we care about far and wide. Arrange a Zoom party and be sure to use the breakout rooms when you have a large group, so everyone gets a chance to connect on a personal level.
- The days are getting shorter and night seems to come along all too quickly. Light some candles, have a fire in the fireplace to bring in more light. For those who struggle with seasonal depression try using a full spectrum light – just 20 minutes a day – to help with balancing your mood.
- Listen to music that fills you up with positive feelings. Invite your friends and family to create a playlist on a music streaming platform that you can all share. Pick a theme and see what people come up with and then on your next Zoom call you can share it together.
- It is hard to remain hopeful in light of the extreme stress COVID-19 has put on all of us. Remember that you are not in this alone and that feelings of isolation, loneliness and sadness are a normal reaction to this stressor. It is not a sign of weakness. Validate your feelings and of those around you. How comforting is it when we hear someone say, “I hear you. I see your struggle.”?
- Be sure to get outside for at least 20 min every day. Being outdoors, particularly on sunny days helps improve mood and encourages a more positive mindset. Walking is a simple and effective stress reducer.
Sometimes, even after our best efforts to manage our feelings we cannot escape the fact that this year has brought about a great deal of loss. Grief is a natural response to loss. Sometimes we must turn into the grief in order to release it. If you are struggling with grief, loss, separation or loneliness and depression please know that we at Treehouse Family Counseling Services are here to support you. You do not have to manage all of this alone. Please call us at 925-820-8447.
Mary Ruth Cross, MFT, NCC, RPT-S
CEO/Owner Treehouse Family Counseling Services