Across our city, country, and the world, seasonal and religious holidays have not been and will not be the same this year. For many, the coming weeks are always a fragile time of year, and 2020 is certainly no exception.
Sadly, people have lost family members and friends in recent months, some have lost jobs, and most will not be spending holidays together for health and safety reasons. For some, absent friends or family has always made the holidays difficult, but this year, more of us will feel this emptiness. Our lives have been turned upside down, and some have gone from bad to worse.
Whatever your circumstances, it is not at all unusual to feel overly emotional or act differently than you typically would during these uncertain times. While some may be able to “keep calm and carry on,” there’s nothing wrong with not feeling calm or finding it difficult to carry on.
So what can we do to embrace this year’s holiday season, try to manage our emotions, and carry on?
We can start by accepting that this is a year like no other. We can:
- Choose not to surrender to negative feelings, accept our situation, learn from it, and find comfort in what we still have.
- Think back to other harsh challenges we’ve confronted in our lifetime and how we managed to get through those.
- Give ourselves credit for what we’ve been able to accomplish so far and try to accept what we can and cannot control at this time.
- Recognize that we are all doing the best we can, and everyone struggles in one way or another.
Remain realistic and still enjoy the present moment.
- The holidays don’t have to be perfect- are they ever? Not everything has to be the same as it was in past years.
- Trying to make things the same, or worse, faultless, will only get the better of you, and you’ll forget that being grateful and hopeful, and if you’re lucky, loved, is what counts. It’s what has always counted.
Seek gratitude this holiday season despite our circumstances and appreciate what we can still do.
- We can continue to connect with others outdoors, over the phone, or online.
- We can send cards and good wishes, practice many familiar religious rituals, cook for others, or assist a person struggling to pay bills.
- If we are fortunate enough to have a home and plenty of food, we can relax, eat seconds, watch a football game or long movie.
- We can think of creative ways to stay close and give those who have nothing a helping hand.
- We can read, donate decorations, play games, and worship virtually. We can try out a new recipe, share stories, and make fantastic plans for next year’s holidays.
We can continue to be thankful and hopeful no matter what our situation, and proud of what we’ve been able to manage so far.
The world is hurting, people are suffering, and we all feel the pandemic’s pain and tomorrow’s uncertainty. Let’s be mindful together and place our thoughts on the good around us. Together we can overcome today’s challenges, enjoy the holidays as best we can, and remain hopeful for a better tomorrow.
If you or someone you care about is feeling more than just sad about the holidays or feeling lonely, withdrawn, worthless, or guilty for more than a few weeks, this may be more than just holiday sadness or stress related to the pandemic. For people in recovery, or those struggling with addiction, the holidays can be hard to get through. You are not alone, and we want to help. You can start with a no-cost and anonymous mental health check-up, look through Healthy Minds Philly Resources to begin helping yourself or others, or Get Help Now if support is urgently needed.
Author: Maria Boswell, Director, Health Promotion Unit, Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS)