How to cope with the 2020 holiday season
By Rachel Parodneck, LMSW
Season’s greetings! It’s supposedly the most wonderful time of the year. However, this time of year can often be fraught with anxiety and stress. Many people who are not close with their families may feel pressure to spend time together and the impact of spending these tension-fueled holidays with them can be a real blow to your mental health. Not only do some people have to navigate contentious family relationships, we all have to be concerned about COVID.
Take all the precautions possible to keep you and your family safe: Wear a mask—seriously! Although it may seem weird and unnatural to wear a mask when with loved ones, doing so can save lives. Wash your hands and avoid coming into contact with anyone who may have been exposed to COVID. If you yourself may have been exposed, do the right thing and excuse yourself from the holidays at home this year.
Set boundaries: It’s always important to instill boundaries in all aspects of your life. Knowing what your bottom line is and lines you are not willing to cross are essential in protecting yourself. If you know that going home for the holidays usually turns into something more closely resembling a horror movie than a Griswold family Christmas vacation, it may make the most sense to spend the holidays on your own or with your chosen family (close friends, extended family, even your cat).
Practice self-care: Right up there with protecting yourself is practicing self-care. This can take many forms but is essentially focusing on activities that make you feel refreshed and rejuvenated. Be it taking a bubble bath, having an at-home spa day, reading a new book, or delving into true crime documentaries, there are so many ways to practice self-care.
Lend a helping hand: If you do choose to go home for the holidays with family, it can be beneficial to stay busy helping others. Does mom need those champagne glasses washed by hand? Perfect opportunity to win some brownie points with her and maybe escape the fam if only for a few solitary minutes of soapy hands.
Give back: Gift giving can be a great way for people to come together; even if it’s only a small trinket and especially if it’s handmade with love. If you are not spending the holiday with family, it could be rewarding to volunteer for a day at a soup kitchen or doing other similar volunteer work. Volunteermatch.com has many available volunteer opportunities.
Don’t talk politics: We’ve all got that one uncle, stepfather, or cousin, who does not agree with us on anything political. They like to rile others up with conflicting viewpoints. It’s a trap—do not engage! Nothing ruins a family holiday like disagreeing on fundamental human rights and economic issues. Any other day of the year you can argue the hell out of your case but over the holidays, lay this one to rest.
Whether you choose to spend the holidays with family or not, the above tips can be real life-savers when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
From our family to yours, happy holidays!