Surviving the Holidays During a Pandemic
By Sunitha Chandy Psy. D. & Ben Tudor M.A.
Three years ago when we wrote our first holiday survival blog we couldn’t imagine the stress of festivities getting worse. And then 2020 happened. While navigating the disruption of how the world functions due to COVID19, wrestling with the costs of racial trauma, balancing the national shifts due to the election and bracing for the onslaught of winter, we are now left with the request to cancel our holiday get-togethers.
If you didn’t feel down before, that sentence probably knocked the wind out of you. As we gear up for the ways we are choosing to celebrate Thanksgiving and thinking forward to the winter and its holidays, I want to remind us all that there is still hope. Even in the midst of things being exhausting, earth shattering and heart breaking--hope, joy and beauty can still thrive. Our goal isn’t to offer answers but to share strategies and to respond, both practically and existentially, to help you connect to your values and strengths that will carry you through the depths of winter and the heavy times to come. Understanding What You Need
"For most of us feelings of stress, sadness, anxiety and anger are intense and loud. Hope, joy and beauty aren’t meant to hide or erase these feelings, they are meant to support them." Feelings are alarms, they are just trying to inform us that something is going on. Our goal isn’t to turn up the volume or ignore the blaring noise but to listen and respond to those feelings. For most of us feelings of stress, sadness, anxiety and anger are intense and loud. Hope, joy and beauty aren’t meant to hide or erase these feelings, they are meant to support them. Thriving and growing in these seasons does not mean not feeling pain. Rather, it means recognizing your pain and focusing on the soothing. Here are some questions to help you start to make that shift:
Who do you want to be in the worst-case scenarios? (great question to tap into your values)
What things do you do to soothe emotional pain and discomfort?
What might you be able to learn about yourself in this time?
How has your experience during the last nine months caused you to look at your life differently?
What are you grateful for?
What do you value differently?
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. -Benjamin Franklin Many of the ways we soothe ourselves and connect with others are significantly stymied in our current environment, that’s why caring for ourselves and our communities is so hard in this season. It’s requiring us to bust out our creativity to find new ways to act out our values.
Fill your relationship with good things. This is the season for touching emails, texts and cards. If you are missing connection with your loved ones or find yourself getting nostalgic about friends from the past, this is a great moment to actually share your thoughts, feelings and gratitudes. Not only will it make someone else's day, it will make you feel great too.
Fill your mind with good things. What are you watching, reading and engaging in? If you’re on a 24 hour news cycle diet you may find your mood matching. This may be the season to adjust your consumption habits to balance staying informed and protecting your mood. What can you listen to, read and focus on that helps you fill up on information that keeps you going?
Fill your body with good things. Many of us are noticing a significant intake in comfort foods and substance use. Check in with yourself. Is this aiding to my soothing and comfort or creating some areas of concern? Diversify how you fill your body with good things. Just like breathing is in a rhythm, inhale and exhale, caring for our bodies requires rhythm too. Don’t avoid the treats, just balance them out so they stay as treats versus ways to numb feelings. If getting active is hard, start small.
Fill your environment with good things. Shifting your environment to include scents, sounds and decorations that trigger feelings of comfort and hope can be helpful. From the simple task of clearing off your desk to rearranging furniture to blasting holiday music or creating your own indoor winter wonderland, these small visual and environmental shifts can help us feel more centered.
What are some of the ways you have been caring for yourself through this season? Remember whatever grows in the fire can survive in the sun! This season is difficult, and challenges are still up ahead. We may feel like the plants in our garden, that seem dried out and withered, yet if we allow ourselves to accept the pain of this moment and commit to responding we build up our capacity so that when the seasons change we can burst into life. If you find yourself in a space where you’re struggling to tap into your resources and navigate the challenges ahead of you, reach out to us, you’re not alone. We all have moments where we need a little support to help us find the strength and stamina to keep moving forward. We are here to help you navigate through these difficult times so you can bring your best forward, for yourself, your relationships, your community and for us all. We are in this together.
Sunitha is actively crafting star themed holiday decorations to reminder herself of the light that still shines in the darkest of times.
Ben has found the importance of the little things that are often easy to take for granted- conversations with loved ones and walks with his wife and dog have been saving graces..= Also, being intentional in his relationship has proven paramount from themed date nights at home and relearning chess (thanks, Queen’s Gambit!).