How to get through the holidays during the pandemic

When the holidays began approaching, I thought we could get through it without our extended family this year and maybe it'd be fine. While I know our household small Thanksgiving was cute and special this year, I can't help but think about the extended family we didn't get to see in person and the fact we won't be seeing them for our annual Chrismaukkah party. The idea of ending the year all together after such an awful nine months sounds like a wonderful experience, but we know it's just not safe. So we are all taking our own precations and upholding our own traditions within our separate homes.

After reading the article by Marisa Renee Lee from Vogue about celebrating in the midst of grief within the pandemic, it made me realize that we are not the only ones feeling this way during these times. Lee makes a list in her article going over holiday traditions, hard feelings and love for one another, and I believe we each should do the same to not only make ourselves feel better but hold ourselves accountable. Your family holds you accountable when you don’t bring the baked Mac n Cheese to the potluck, so hold yourself accountable for things you find important as well!

Our annual Chrismaukkah party is still fairly new, made by us young cousins in an attempt to get the family all together more often. We may not physically see our family these holidays, but we will definitely coordinate with the cousins once again to try and make a Chrismaukkah Zoom call. My great aunt did this on Thanksgiving and it was so sweet to see every one, even if it was in our pajamas and through screens.

Before that, my immediate family would stay home, open presents on Christmas and my dad would make his amazing gumbo. This year, we are falling back into that old tradition, even if it means my 14-year-old brother and I helping my dad cook while also cleaning up the mess of leftover wrapping paper. If this year, you find yourself falling into old traditions or even making new traditions, totally accept them and maybe find a way to incorporate them into next year.

And if not, this is definitely an odd year that none of us are really enjoying, so if the “new tradition” you make this year doesn’t hold up, one thing that will definitely hold true from now through many years is that we will enjoy and appreciate each other’s presence way more than before.

Photo credit: Photo by Nikola Johnny Mirkovic on Unsplash

When it comes to your feelings and mental health, those should be made a priority. If normally around this time of year you are stretching yourself thin between wrapping presents, last-minute shopping or cooking for your family, you can relax a bit this year. As Lee explains in her article, you need to name your emotions, not ignore them.

I found at the beginning of this pandemic I tried looking at the bright side of everything, saying I can finally take this time to relax and pick up some new and old hobbies. I did this so much that I pushed my real emotions to the side until I had a breakdown five months into the pandemic and couldn’t physically work for a few weeks because I suddenly felt tired and overwhelmed. If I had been upfront with my emotions and balanced those positive and negative thoughts, I probably wouldn’t have been hit like that.

When simply putting a Google search in of “covid and depression”, the top thing to come up is a warning about coping that says, “Be kind to your mind,” along with ways to take care of yourself during these unprecedented times.

The CDC reported back in August of adults having worsened mental health during the pandemic. It’s been tough for many of us and we are each fighting our own demons, but as the CDC has shown, we are not alone in our feelings. So maybe this means reaching out to friends and family and checking in on them and talking honestly about our mental health. This will only help spread awareness of the mental health crisis we are dealing with head-first right now.

Especially after losing family members or friends due to the pandemic. The grief can be unbearable, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care of yourself. Taking time to seek Zoom therapy appointments and taking self-care days is essential during these times.

Lee also touches in her article caring for others during this time, especially since so many people have lost their jobs and are becoming food insecure. While not all of us can donate food or money due to our own predicaments, lending a helping hand in your neighborhood (safely) is always appreciated.

We made a plate of Thanksgiving dinner for our neighbor and dropped it off wrapped in foil while wearing a mask and gloves. We even ended up giving him a tray of leftovers later because we realized we wouldn’t be able to eat it all and we didn’t want to waste it. Simple things like that are always appreciated.

These times are hard, but making them just a bit better can happen if we take a breath and focus on what is truly important to us. Overall, all these things relate to our mental health, and that shows how important it is to take care of ourselves.

I hope you all try to video call your family and try to make the best out of this holiday season. But most of all, I hope you take time to yourself to just breathe.

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