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Feel like everything right now is beyond your control? It isn’t. There will be things you can still do. Perhaps making a favorite holiday dessert, watching a favorite TV show or taking a walk after a filling meal.
Other things you look forward to this time of year may still work with changes. There are still safe ways to celebrate. Consider online celebrations, especially with friends and family who aren’t local. If you want to plan an in-person gathering, consider things like location, the number of people you invite and how long the event will last.
For example, it may be safer to limit the number of people for each event. Having an event outdoors can also help. And of course, follow the usual COVID-19 safety guidelines.
Look at it as a chance to add new traditions to the mix — a blend of old and new.
It’s also a good time to learn healthy coping skills for handling the stress and anxiety that come with the holidays for many.
As we enter a holiday season when things look and feel different, a good first step is to set our minds to be prepared.
It’s important to recognize that there is no way to make everyone happy. Families approach challenges differently. They may have different views about the risks of being together. Some may be comfortable with dining indoors and travel. Others may not. That can cause tension and friction.
“Families will need to stop judging each other’s choices,” said Vaile Wright, Ph.D., senior director of health care innovation at the American Psychological Association. “Now is the time to approach the situation with grace and empathy.”
This can be the year for new traditions. That may mean coming up with new ideas on how to celebrate. If you can’t travel, maybe you can use technology to connect. Gather virtually before a meal so everyone can express what they’re grateful for this year.
Try to focus on reflection and gratitude, and look for ways to find hope and joy in the way life is right now.
Keep in mind that it isn’t going to be like this forever. No doubt, 2020 has been a challenging year for many. Putting on a smile and trying to force being upbeat and positive isn’t likely to help. But trying something new may.
Often holidays are filled with unrealistic expectations. But there is no perfect turkey or perfect gift. It’s better to strive for balance and focus on being in the present. That can help manage anxiety, Wright says. It’s also a good time to remember basic coping skills, like taking a walk outdoors or taking deep breaths.
And do what you can to keeps things as stable as possible for your family. The American Psychological Association offers resources for keeping children safe and engaged in fun and meaningful activities.
If you can’t go to a traditional gathering or religious service, you may be able to fashion a new custom for yourself or your family.
“Rituals give us a feeling of going beyond the ordinary — of having a moment that transcends that, turning events into something special and meaningful,” says social psychologist Shira Gabriel in an article from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.
You don’t have to go to a big public event. Things that happen every day can be uplifting. Like a long talk or watching TV together as a family. There are many ways to create good memories.
Just try to be kind. To yourself, and to others.
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