“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.”
― William James
As soon as October ends it seems the whole world goes into overdrive preparing for the upcoming holiday season. Christmas lights go up, stores start advertising their Black Friday deals, and people start preparing for the next two months of festivities.
Although the holiday season is a time of joy and revelry for many people, it can also be a source of stress and unhappiness. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the season, and sometimes the holidays are unwelcome reminders of unpleasant events from previous months and of loved ones who aren’t able to celebrate with us. This year the holiday season may look a little different from those of years past, which can add even more stress. As we continue to find ways to balance the joys and demands of everyday life with protecting the health and safety of ourselves and our loved ones, it’s important to be mindful of where we are directing our energy. By staying connected with ourselves, others, and the world we can learn to cope with the anxiety and uncertainty and move wholeheartedly into the holiday season.
Tips to Help Stay Connected
- Practice Mindfulness
“First I need to buy the turkey, then I need to decorate the house, then it’s time to shop Amazon Wishlist…” No wonder the holidays can be overwhelming! It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement, but it’s important to take a break and appreciate the present moment. Feel the cool wind on your face, relish in the “crunch” created by stepping on a fallen leaf, and enjoy every sip of that delicious Peppermint Mocha! By staying in present moment we aren’t letting ourselves be overwhelmed by “need,” “should,” or “have to;” we are focused on ourselves and what is happening in our immediate environment.
2. Be Thankful for the Little Things
The annual Thanksgiving visit to grandma’s house may be canceled and the Christmas pageant may look a little different, but do not fret! It’s ok to miss the celebrations and traditions of years past, but there is still so much to be thankful for. Try making a “Gratitude List” identifying all of the things you are thankful for this holiday season, big and small: cooler weather, pumpkin spice- or peppermint-flavored everything, the Harry Potter marathons on ABC. Despite everything that’s gone wrong this year (let’s be real: there’s been a lot) there is still so much left to appreciate.
3. Spend Time with Loved Ones (face-to-face or virtually)
I never thought I would be so grateful to live in the Age of Technology! With travel restrictions and bans on large gatherings, digital communication is a true blessing. Schedule a regular get-together to catch up with family and friends through Zoom or Facetime. Spend some socially-distanced time in a backyard or park talking and enjoying the fresh air. It doesn’t matter how you spend time with your loved ones, as long as you’re able to do it!
4. Embrace “The New Normal”
There’s one big realization I’ve come to this year: people are remarkably adaptive! The rules and guidelines that have been put into place have compelled people to find new and creative ways to live like they have in the past, and the holiday season is a prime example! Host a “Virtual Thanksgiving” during which family and friends show off their favorite holiday dishes or use the Netflix Party feature to watch a fun holiday movie (Elf is my all-time favorite) together no matter where y’all are! While hopefully “The New Normal” isn’t here to stay, there’s no reason we can’t have a blast in the interim.
5. Have Fun!
While large gatherings (like my wedding—boo!) have been cancelled this year, fun definitely was not! With all of the stress and uncertainty abounding, now more than ever it’s important to let go and have fun. Visit an apple orchard or pumpkin patch, bake Christmas cookies (or eat the cookie dough—no judgment here), or just curl up in front of the fireplace with a cozy blanket and mug of hot chocolate. As Vivian Greene once wrote, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain!”
I hope these tips help you find peace and joy this holiday season. Stay safe, stay connected, and dance on!
Written by Courtney Sanders, M.S.:
Courtney is working toward a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at the University of North Texas. She previously earned a master’s degree in psychology from the University of North Texas. Courtney has worked with children, adolescents, and adults of various backgrounds and identities. Clinical areas of focus have included depression, anxiety, trauma, psychosis, and emotional/behavioral dysregulation.