With a holiday season like no other happening right now, you might feel all kinds of emotions. It might be a whole smorgasbord of feelings, too—they can range from depressed, lonely, and anxious to happy and hopeful. It's par for the course when you're dealing with a year like 2020.
We might not feel the same holiday stressors as we might've in years past because gatherings, parties, and the usual socializing around this time of year are pretty much nonexistent. You might feel relief at not having to answer nosy questions at the dinner table with your extended family. You probably are both sad and happy to give up hosting duties this year. Without much travel happening, you can avoid any frustration at the airport, at the train station, or on the road.
But that doesn't mean we're free from it all. There is still stress lurking, just of a different variety. You could feel the pressures from having people in your family and friend group disagree on COVID-19 guidelines and boundaries. If you're not able to travel to see people, this might be a lonely time. You might have finances on the brain at this time when there's an expectation to spend more money although people have lost jobs and sources of income.
We know that, when left unchecked, the stress can really get to a person. Your mental and physical health are at stake. So that's where having a game plan for how you're going to navigate this overwhelming season can help. To start, we asked Naomi Hirabayashi and Marah Lidey, the co-founders of the self-care app Shine, for their tips.
1. Set Intentions
Lidey says she starts every week with a weekly intention to ground herself. The practice helps with her work, as it allows her to create a framework for how she wants to approach days, meetings, and priorities.
Lidey recommends creating the same intentionality for the holidays—thinking of how you want to approach the end of the year with a focus that serves you. "Maybe you're 'honoring your needs to rest and recharge' or 'advocating for yourself by setting boundaries with family' or 'connecting with yourself with a daily check-in on your needs.' Take a few minutes ahead of the holidays to identify how you want to approach the holidays, a holiday break if you have it, or working through the holiday season," she explains.
Recently, the co-founders of Viva Wellness, Rachel Gersten and Jor-El Caraballo, shared some advice with Shine on how to cope with grief during this holiday season. The first recommendation was to "honor your feelings." That entails noticing and observing your feelings and emotions, sitting with them, and exploring how you can reframe or accept them.
If you're making time to feel grief, you are able to manage it instead of it managing you, Gersten says. Take mindful moments to let yourself feel and reflect.
4. Set Aside Time for Yourself
"Me" time is so important. If you can't set aside moments to reset and recharge, it can lead to burnout and make your anxiety or stress worse. To put it simply, if you're not taking care of yourself, you're not going to be the best version of yourself and won't be there for those around you.
We have spent the year apart from many of our loved ones, and that thought can hit much harder during the holidays. Just thinking about how I haven't seen many of my cousins, aunts, uncles, and close friends in a year and won't be able to see them in person anytime soon is quite depressing.
When I asked Hirabayashi how we can be there for our friends and family even with social distancing rules in place, she said gratitude and specificity are key. "Whether it's a quick text, email, or call, reaching out to close family, friends, co-workers with a specific message of gratitude could be the message that helps them through a tough day," she explains. "This year, being more isolated from friends and family has made me really appreciate the extra gesture of reaching out with a message that makes you feel seen, supported, and valued."
It can be hard for a lot of us to admit that we need help, but part of being kind to yourself is asking for support when you need it. Gersten says that many people are working through things right now, so needing help isn't a weakness, and leaning on resources, like those around you, is a normal principle of healthy relationships.
On the flip side, if you are feeling good but notice others around you are struggling, see if there is any way that you can support them. Just make sure you are doing it in a mindful way that is actually helpful to them. A simple text or call is a good place to start.
You might feel guilty for feeling relieved that you're having a quieter holiday. Hirabayashi suggests digging deeper into this guilt and asking yourself why you're feeling that way. It might help you better understand your emotions and be more compassionate with yourself.
"For example, if you are feeling guilty by enjoying a quieter holiday season, could that be more about needing some recharging time after the intensity of the year? Do you have a complicated relationship with your family, and this year you are thankful to avoid a holiday dynamic that causes you anxiety?" she asks. "As long as you are comfortable with your holiday plans this year, that's what matters most. And writing out the needs you are honoring in those plans, like you or your family's health, boundary setting, or catching up on sleep, can help you release that guilt."
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions. See our full health disclaimer here.