As this holiday season ramps up, you and your family may be wondering how to celebrate during a pandemic. Will you travel to see loved ones? Can you gather and commemorate your traditions?
PLAN / Perhaps the first recommendation is to plan ahead to help alleviate stress. That means talking openly about your expectations, your comfort level, and what is feasible for you. Communicating with family members and listening to their concerns is vital.
Assess the risks of gathering with honesty. Are there people in your extended family who are compromised or not comfortable with getting together? There are a lot of things to consider this holiday season. If you’re going to travel, there are both financial and health considerations. You may want to see your family; however, you may not be able to afford the time off or the travel expenses. Be honest with your family. Remember, this pandemic impacts people on many levels. Be open and understanding with yourself and others.
Plan the details as much as possible. Who’s going to host the meals, who’s going to attend? Will people bring their specialty dishes? There might have to be some agreement about isolating (and testing) before the event. Doing this would avoid any controversy about mask-wearing during the gathering. Remember, it’s all an attempt to bring joy and unity to a year that has had (for many) far too little of it.
REMAIN OPEN & EMPATHETIC / If one of your family members has respiratory issues or an immune disorder, they’ll likely be uncomfortable with large gatherings, family, or otherwise. Respect and support their decision, remembering this pandemic won’t last forever. If necessary, remind yourself and others that it’s temporary, and everyone has different comfort levels, different fears, and different health concerns. Now is a great time to practice loving kindness.
VIRTUAL GATHERINGS / If you can’t gather, find other ways to celebrate with your friends and family. Create an online meeting using Zoom or Skype and cook your favorite meal together. In other words, keep your beloved traditions even if you have to modify how you share them.
SNAIL MAIL / Write letters to friends and family expressing your gratitude for their love and tell them specifically how you miss them. Keep the connections alive during the holidays regardless of what’s going on. Step back and breathe into your memories of all the wonderful times you were able to share. Talk about them, laugh or cry, and share these memories.
EXPRESS GRATITUDE / It’s easy during difficult times to forget all that you have. At the same time, remember it is okay to feel sorrow or grief for the way things are. Be grateful for the suffering as it reminds you/us of the power of love and how palpable life is when you bring your awareness to happy times, loving fun time. Write a gratitude list. Begin with the littlest things you are grateful for; the coffee shop with its amazing cappuccinos, the neighbor who always says hello, the car you can get in and drive. Openly thank all of the things that make you smile; music, your pets greeting you when you arrive home, the sound of your name in your significant other’s mouth. In other words, shift your consciousness from your head to your heart.
TAKE A BREATH & STEP BACK / If you’re feeling overwhelmed this holiday season write down what’s essential to you. What can you let go of? Maybe not being able to gather has given you a reprieve from an overbearing family. Use this time to reconstruct the way you’d like to spend your holiday seasons. What rituals and traditions do you want to incorporate or let go of moving forward?
Above all else, the memories you share and the willingness to be together in different ways will keep your heart connected to those you love.