The holidays can be difficult for many people. This was true even before the coronavirus pandemic brought its losses and stress to our lives. Like many people, you may feel disjointed and disoriented about the holidays this year.
Traditions and family gatherings have had to be canceled. Jobs may have been lost and income reduced. Loved ones may be stuck in isolation or worse, have passed away because of the pandemic.
No matter how the pandemic has affected you and your family, the holidays will be different this year. Here are some suggestions for getting through them.
Acknowledge Your Stress and Grief
Our culture has created high expectations that the holidays will be a time of happiness and connection. This can be a heavy weight on anyone’s shoulders. You may feel you should try to ignore your feelings of stress or grief. Perhaps you even make excuses, telling yourself that your losses aren’t as big as someone else’s or that it could be so much worse.
But stuffing these feelings away won’t help you or those around you. In fact, stuffing them away will only make them worse.
The first step to feeling even a tiny bit better is often being open about how you’re feeling. This is also the first step in being able to manage these feelings.
Find a quiet time and place to be honest with yourself about your feelings. If you have a friend you’d be comfortable talking with, schedule a call with them. Or write your feelings down on paper. Allow yourself to weep while you’re in the shower. Admit to yourself, and those around you, that you’re struggling.
You’ve probably heard of the stages of grief. They include denial, bargaining, anger, depression, acceptance, and eventually finding deep meaning as a result of the experience of loss.
It’s important to know that these are not linear steps. And they apply to all losses, not just the death of loved ones. This is true whether you’ve lost a job, are grieving the isolation in your life caused by the pandemic, or are weighed down by the pandemic’s continued growth.
Stress Management Techniques
Stress, of course, often comes with grief. But stress can be a beast of its own as well. Making the holidays “happen” involves a lot of extra planning. Navigating them during a pandemic understandably adds a layer of stress.
This is a time when classic stress management techniques are as important as ever.
Identify the sources of your stress, then consider what you can do to lessen those sources. You probably won’t be able to minimize all of them, but even one or two will help. Purchase a takeout holiday meal from a restaurant or grocery store instead of cooking everything. E-mail a digital holiday card instead of sending out physical cards. You get the idea.
During times of stress and grief, self-care is important. Take a few quiet moments by yourself to practice breathing exercises. Reduce noise and distraction in your home (e.g., turn off the TV and your mobile phone, give yourself a time out if you’re a parent, hide obnoxious toys, kennel your yappy dog in the garage for a few hours).
Exercise and Nutrition
Even ten minutes of walking can provide stress relief and raise feel-good endorphins in your body. Find creative ways to squeeze in a little extra activity. Likewise, too much sugar, caffeine, and alcohol can have a detrimental effect on your mood and energy.
If grief and stress persist to where you feel you can’t function or begin considering suicide, it’s vital to reach out for help. This has been a hard year for everyone, but it is possible to find a way through it to healing.