Navigating the Holidays During a Pandemic

No one could have expected to be dealing with the highest COVID-19 numbers since the pandemic hit at the top of 2020, but here we are still trying to navigate this pandemic. With the holidays quickly approaching we are now faced with another element of the reality of COVID-19. The holiday season has been known to magnify our experiences, whether it be grief, stress, anxiety or love, joy, and gratefulness. With over 200k deaths this year because of COVID-19 so many people will be celebrating differently this year. Dealing with their first holiday without their loved ones or navigating holidays away. Today, I want to share 3 considerations when navigating the holidays during a pandemic.

It’s OK to feel how you feel, but it’s not OK to judge others for how they are feeling. 

If you are excited about the holidays and would like to maintain a sense of normalcy, that is fine. If you are not feeling the holidays and you would rather not engage in the festivities as normal, that’s OK too. I think it is important for families to sit down and address the elephant in the room. Talk about what is going to be different and how they are going to honor loved ones and incorporate them if possible. Some families choose to set a place at the table or leave a chair open just to hold space for their loved one. This can be a way to  acknowledge that they are still present in their hearts and minds.

It's OK to create new traditions 

If we have learned anything this year, it is how to be flexible and adapt. Find ways to be proactive and adapt during this holiday season. If you decide not to travel think of how you can make time to connect with family. Zoom dinners, virtual games, or organizing a cook off where you deliver desserts to family members and friends and have a live judging. Yes, it may take some extra time or effort, but the objective is to remain connected as much as possible.

Your boundary is your boundary, and you do not have to feel guilty for enforcing it 

Let’s be real. The way some people are handling this pandemic is very differently from others. We have those who still believe it is a hoax. Some who believe that COVID-19 has come specifically to hinder us from living our life to the fullest. We live in a individualist society.  Many people focus on primarily how various situations will impact them.  When we have a collective mentality, we are not just concerned with individualized implications, but we stretch ourselves to consider how this could potentially impact others as well. When establishing boundaries, we must look at the short and long-term implications. Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. Townsend are the boundaries gurus and authors of Boundaries. Dr. Cloud and Townsend introduce the concept of Hurt and Harm. They shared that sometimes when something hurts you it’s not actually harmful. And sometimes trying to prevent someone from hurting could be harmful.

Consider utilizing this perspective when you think about establishing holiday boundaries. How could this decision you are making hurt or harm you and those connected to you? You do not have to be the sacrificial lamb and volunteer yourself as tribute so that others will feel more comfortable. Everyone is responsible for their own emotions and actions. When you are connected to others and their sense of responsibility does not align with yours it is OK to set a boundary. This is unique because we are not just navigating a difference in opinion, but we are navigating life, sickness, and health. Your safety and well being are more important than any relationship. If your safety is compromised then what will you be left with relationship wise?

If you are having a hard time navigating holiday stress, guilt, and grief, I am here to help. Feel free to reach out to me or another therapist for support. Having someone to assist you in processing your challenges can be extremely beneficial.