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Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Surviving the Holidays: Pandemic Edition

Planning for the holidays can be a stressful time with figuring out which friends or family you will go see if you are hosting, and when you will travel.

Now the Coronavirus has turned up the dial on these concerns and added its own problems along with it.


Changing Traditions

Affectionately held traditions may not be happening, in the same way, this year, and you are possibly wondering how to navigate this holiday season with both safety and celebration in mind. Understandably, you want to be able to be in the spirit of the season, but there might be a few things you want to consider before your holiday gathering. 

Ways to Make Connecting Over the Holidays Safer

  • Go Virtual. Though this has been the answer to many COVID concerns, it continues to be a good option over the holidays. This could allow you to expand your circle of people who you include to those who normally aren’t a part of your tradition.
  • Get Creative. Swap family recipes to enjoy your favorite dishes. Mail goodies or gifts to one another. Plan a group activity to watch a movie or a sporting event at the same time to enjoy time together in a different way.
  • Be Outside. If you are doing events in person, it is suggested to be outside if the weather permits. There could be a new holiday tradition of taking a walk together to look at decorations or have a distanced event in the backyard.
  • Follow the Guidelines. The CDC has given a wonderful guide for the holidays to consider keeping the season safe. Remember the basics of hand washing, wearing a mask, and keeping a distance if you are having any gatherings.

Set Expectations

It is important to remember that each person’s view of “safe” for the holidays could be very different. Conversations with family members about what the plans are this year are crucial to help this season go smoothly.

Before talking with family, it may be helpful to consider the level of risk you are comfortable taking. If your boundary is to celebrate in-person with the members of your household exclusively, make that clear from the beginning and have some suggestions prepared on how to connect in other ways. Some may feel strongly to keep the traditions the same but remind yourself that you do not need to give in to peer pressure.

Along with this, consider those other people may not feel comfortable with your plans. Maybe you designed an outdoor celebration with masking and someone you invited does not want to participate in person. Respect the decisions of others and do not take these actions as personal but as a measure of safety. Consider making portions of events virtual to include all parties. 

Loneliness, Grief, and Cravings

The holidays were a challenging time for many people pre-pandemic. It can be a reminder of the loss of loved ones and a time that most do not want to be alone. People may be grieving the loss of travel plans or their hopes for this past year, and this season there are families experiencing their first year without someone.

Loneliness and grief can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, or even suicidal thoughts. When experiencing these difficult feelings people can fall back to old coping mechanisms that are threatening to sobriety.

Don’t be surprised if you are feeling more triggered to drink or use drugs, as this is quite normal. What’s essential is recognizing that risk and caring for yourself.

Tips For Staying Sober Over the Holidays

  1. Set-Up Support: Make sure you are not keeping difficult emotions only to yourself. Call a loved one and let them know how you are feeling and take time to connect. There have also been virtual AA and NA meetings to provide a space to share struggles. You are not alone in this experience.
  2. Find Meaningful Activities: Take time to do the things that are special for you. Do you have a favorite cookie recipe or a movie you always watched with your family? Do the things that matter to you for the season or just in general. Taking this time will help build peace.
  3. HALT: If you are considering thinking about HALT (are you hungry, angry, lonely, or tired?). If you, then make a plan to address that need. Such as taking a nap, calling a friend, getting take-out, or going for a walk. Listening to your needs will help you feel more centered.
  4. Seek Help: Therapy is an option every step of the way to learn new tools, brainstorm ideas, and be a space to share. There is no wrong time to ask for help.
If you are needing support to deal with the emotional toll of the holidays this season - The Haven is here to help. Reach out today to talk about how we can support you or your loved ones.