The Holidays can be a stressful time for all of us for a variety of reasons. This year is the first in a lifetime for most of us, celebrating the holiday season in the midst of a pandemic.
Safety. With Covid infection rates rising the rules and guidelines for safety are shifting all the time regarding types of gatherings and number of attendies that are acceptable. Grappling with the realities of social distancing and mask wearing among close friends and family members is not easy. There are also shifts in our understanding of how individuals are impacted and identifying who is more at risk. It can feel overwhelming weighing seeing loved ones vs staying safe. The solutions and answers aren’t always going to feel good. It may mean that you don't get to see your family and friends in the ways your normally do, or even at all. Given the guidelines there are situations where tough decisions need to be made and you have to decide for yourself what risks are outweighed by the benefits of competing interests. For guidance you can check the CDC website or local state pages regarding the most up to date information on travel, gatherings, etc.. You can seek the counsel of a trusted primary care physician, or other healthcare professional.
Perhaps this is your first holiday season without a loved one, maybe that loved one or ones are no longer with us because of Covid. Your sense of loss may feel intensified as you navigate the season for the first time without your loved one. Feelings of isolation and loneliness can be even worse given the pandemic and restrictions on socializing and being around others. Know that you are not alone. However you are feeling is ok. There are so many of us walking this path together. Reach out to a friend, a mental health professional, or spiritual counsel. Try to allow other people in, take care of yourself spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Take solace in the knowledge that support and strength can come from others and yourself. Please remember that it’s still ok to celebrate, even when you are grieving. It’s also ok to begin new traditions that may or may not include paying homage to loved ones that are no longer with us.
Perhaps it’s the first holiday celebrating with a brand new loved one. Maybe you have welcomed a new baby by birthing yourself or by using a surrogate. Maybe you decided to adopt, or foster a child. You may feel conflicted as you want to show that new family member off to friends and family but are cautious of exposure and fearful of visitors with so many unknowns with this virus. This may be causing undue stress during a time that would normally feel joyous. There may also be a sense of loss around missing the celebration of a milestone, such as "baby's first Christmas." As a parent, it is a reminder that our expectations for how things "should look" don't always match reality. That what we may want for our children doesn’t always come to fruition. It’s ok to feel whatever comes up around this experience and honor it by our presence and attention. We can use this to teach our older children resiliency in the face of hardship. Maybe we can also make space to feel grateful for the very presence of the new family member, its ok to have gratitude for blessings while others are suffuring. Perhaps this year create a new tradition way to celebrate and share with loved ones, such as a virtual happy hour or desert and coffee party. Feel free to be creative and think outside the box. Figure out what works best for you and your family.
Remember that this is new territory for all of us. Our strength comes from each other and ourseleves. If you are struggling to find ways to release stress, cope with all these life changes, or just need someone to talk to do not hesitate to reach out for professional help and guidance. Psychology Today is a good resource, as is the Academy for Integrative Medicine, or Integrative Practitioner. I also have listed under my Resources other supports.