7 Ways To Enjoy the Holidays During the Pandemic

Are you feeling worried, sad or disappointed with how the holidays may look this year? Here are ways to still find the joy and celebrate with your family even if you are physically apart.

Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash

After the extensive trials we’ve all undoubtedly endured this year, it is understandable that many have been eagerly awaiting a holiday spent with loved ones, laughter, and tradition. And now, covid has jeopardized even these most simple of desires. Everywhere you look, coronavirus cases are surging and hospital stays are soaring. Public health officials are urging people to stay home for the holidays and discouraging gathering with anyone outside your immediate household.

Celebrations this season will look different. They will feel different. They will be different.

The holiday norm varies from person to person. Expectations range from excitement and joy to stress and tension. This time around, the holiday season may be magnifying the sadness, disappointment and fear we have been struggling with since March. A joyous time of gift giving may be a grim reminder of the economic fallout many families have faced. Countless celebrations will be met with empty seats at the dinner table, amplifying the grief of an unimaginable loss. Essential workers, healthcare workers and others are contending with burnout and depression on a record scale, yet they still may not be able to take the time off to share in holiday festivities.

We may be mentally exhausted or emotionally drained like never before. In spite of all this, there are ways to still approach the holidays with optimism and enjoy time spent with our loved ones, even if we are physically distanced.

1. Discuss plans with your family. It should come as no surprise that members of your family may have differing opinions on how to go about the holidays this year. While some may feel that it is best to celebrate differently and do a Zoom Thanksgiving, others may try to find ways to have a distanced gathering outside while limiting the size. Communicate clearly and remember to stay open and honest. If you are feeling pressure to do something you are not comfortable with, perhaps traveling or attending a large party, let your family know. Do not be afraid to protect your boundaries, even if it means disappointing someone you love. Explain that you are coming from a place of love, to protect the health and safety of those around you.

2. Validate your own feelings. Yes, it is OKAY to feel upset at the disappointment of the holidays. Perhaps your family has special traditions you have engaged in for many years and now you are unable to. You have the right to feel frustrated, as these traditions likely mean a lot to you! If this is how you are feeling, let yourself feel it. Then try to come to acceptance of the present circumstances.Try to find ways to turn the disappointment into a force for good that can drive you to look for the small joys.

3. Find Creative Ways to Celebrate. If you can’t see your family in person, brainstorm creative ways to still make it special with them. Plan the day. What traditions can you still celebrate together? Set up Zoom during dinner so everyone can still eat together and share what they are grateful for. Try making the same recipe, or send each family a pie from your favorite local bakery. Dress up like you would if you were together in person. Decorate your dinner table and play music. Watch the football game or have a dance party virtually together. Bonus: Zoom is lifting its 40 minute time limit for Thanksgiving day.

4. Let go of expectations. This year has been challenging as it is, don’t put additional pressure on yourself to have the “picture perfect” holiday. Make some easier dishes, take shortcuts, add a twist, or change up the menu this time around. Focus on the meaning of gratitude and remember to be kind to yourself.

5. Create new traditions. This year comes with the added possibility of creating new family traditions that you can carry forward. Of course, keep the rituals you love, but don’t be afraid to try new ones. What are some fresh traditions you can put into practice this year? Maybe start the morning with a special breakfast routine, play a certain song that gives you that cozy holiday feeling, pick out a special trail to hike with your family, or end the evening on Zoom catching up with your close friends. There are endless opportunities to personalize your celebration.

6. Practice Gratitude and Give to Others. Serving your community is another way to get into the holiday spirit and takes your mind off your own concerns. Find out where you can provide meals to others in your community. Take the time to send some cards to the elderly in nursing homes, as they are even more isolated this year. Drop something off for a neighbor. One small gesture can mean so much to someone, while bringing you immense joy as well.

7. Remember this is only temporary. At the end of the day, remember this is temporary. Don’t forget that there is a light at the end of the tunnel! Next year, you will be reunited with your loved ones, wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of holiday cheer, making memories, and keeping traditions.

Blogger|Speaker|Psychiatrist| Inspiring Healthy Minds. Instagram @drdanareid