You CAN Thrive This Holiday Season
The holidays can be an emotional rollercoaster, even in years where we’re not facing stressful political events and a global pandemic. The combination of mandatory family time (some of whom you might not get along well with or feel safe with) and the expectation of 24/7 joy can be difficult to handle. Here are some tips for having a new type of holiday on your own terms.
Set a realistic expectation for this holiday
The reality is that this year will be different than previous years no matter what you do to try and return to normalcy. Holiday traditions that have gone on for decades might suddenly feel unsafe- like that yearly family dinner with all the aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. Maybe your family is even missing a member or two as a result of the virus. Whatever the change is to your normal plan, it’s important to take some time to figure out what a realistic experience will be. Maybe this holiday you’re still planning for the big visit, but you’ll need to brace yourself for the grief process you’ll face when grandpa isn’t sitting in his chair this year. Or maybe you’ll have to anticipate what it might be like to make thanksgiving dinner alone in preparation for a scheduled all-family zoom call. No matter what your holiday looks like, giving yourself time to anticipate the changes and adjust accordingly will help you stay collected.
Stay connected with people you don’t feel the need to perform for
Holidays can feel very performative. Everyone just kind of expects that it’s the most joyous time of the year, and so we all feel pressured to perform that joy, regardless of what we’re actually feeling. Any deviation from that expected emotional state could be met with concern that isn’t necessarily warranted, or worse, more pressure to just be happy. Sometimes, it’s difficult to explain to Nana that you’re just not really feeling the joy this year, so it’s very important that you stay connected with the people in your life that you can be your authentic self with. Stay connected with friends that don’t expect you to put on a happy face for the sake of a holiday photo. They won’t put that pressure on you, and you won’t put that pressure on them, and you can be each other’s support through a stressful holiday.
Set your boundaries, and then keep them
Speaking of pressure, over the course of the holiday, you might find that family and friends will try to convince you to disregard your boundaries for the sake of the celebration. Maybe you just don’t feel comfortable flying in to a big family gathering with tons of people (presumably, very few wearing masks). Don’t start off the holiday by disregarding your own boundaries and making yourself uncomfortable to make sure others get to have a “normal holiday”. Check in with yourself before the invitations come in and make sure you know what your boundaries are. For example- are you comfortable going to any gatherings? If you are, what’s the limit of people in one space? Does everyone have to be wearing a mask and distancing? These are all important questions to ask yourself- and once you know for certain, it’ll be easier to say no to things you don’t feel safe doing. The no changes from “I’m sorry grandpa, I can’t visit this Thanksgiving” to “I can’t visit this Thanksgiving, because I don’t feel safe about 30 unmasked people in the same small place, especially when I know a few of them had to fly in from other cities.” And when grandpa wants you to come anyway, stand your ground.
Celebrate in the way you want to
Just because this holiday will be different, doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. How do you most enjoy spending normal days, and how can you make it special for a holiday? Maybe you can sit and watch tv with your pet like you normally would on a free day, but to make it special, you can dress up, decorate your living room, and watch something with a holiday theme. Maybe you can make yourself a big fancy dinner and just pack the leftovers up for future lunches. If you’d like to see friends and family, maybe it’s worth it to request a few friends all agree to self-isolate for several days and get tested for a small gathering, or maybe a zoom call is more up your alley. No matter how you choose to celebrate, or if you celebrate at all, you deserve a calm day where you get to have fun however you see fit.