How we can create a joyful, memorable holiday experience amidst all that has been 2020.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. But – in the midst of a global pandemic and at the end of an emotional, challenging 2020 for all – it may be difficult for some to get into the spirit of the season. To assist our efforts, I connected with my dear friend, Megan Goddard, the owner and founder of Cardinal Counseling Services, LLC. She has over 10 years of experience working with children, adolescents, and families in a variety of settings. The following are some tips and tricks on how we can best navigate this unfamiliar terrain while keeping our mental health and wellness in check.
Check yo-self before you wreck yo-self.
“With all of the challenges and changes that have taken place during the pandemic, it is important to check in with ourselves and the way in which we are feeling. At times, women and mothers put their emotions on the back burner, do not verbalize them, and continue to wear the variety of hats: housekeeper, driver, cook, etc.
This can cause us to not have a full grasp of our emotions, which makes it difficult to express and cope with them. Remember that it is okay to not be okay. Women do not need to have their masks of no emotions on. It is okay to cry, laugh, need some space… and it is okay to ask for those things.”
Megan also advised us to, “Be in the moment. At times, we are ten steps ahead, and that can cause a variety of emotions – such as being overwhelmed, anxious, and worried. By being in the moment, we can focus our attention and thoughts on the specific task or activity we are doing or on the loved ones we are with.”
A strategy that I learned to help me better connect with my emotions and be present in the moment is a technique called grounding. It only takes a few seconds and can be completed anywhere… in your car, at your desk, in bed, or at the sink while doing dishes.
Close your eyes (make sure you’re safely parked if practicing this in your car), take a few slow, deep breaths, and then do a sensory evaluation of your surroundings. What do you hear? Smell? Taste? Feel? Spend a few seconds to a few minutes in this moment of quiet reflection and observation. When you’re ready, rejoin the space fully by opening your eyes. Hopefully, you are able to return more present, in the present.
Don’t put your self-care on layaway.
To be the best for the ones you love, you have to be at your best, and that can’t happen when you are neglecting your needs or emotions. Megan reminded us that, “Coping strategies are individual to each person; what works for one does not work for another. Do things that bring a moment of relief from the daily duties.” Some suggested activities include: journaling, exercising, taking a hot bath, reading, going to a yoga class, meeting a friend for coffee, walking the beach, praying, meditating, painting, going for a drive, listening to music or a podcast, or even just taking a trip to the store solo.
Therefore, know thyself. Know what works for you and then make that happen. If you’re not sure what works for you or you are looking to spice things up, use the above list as a starting point. We make time for the things that matter to us; so, make sure that what matters to you isn’t sacrificed during the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Most often, we are the glue that holds our families together; therefore, be sure to create these opportunities for yourself and, when necessary, recruit the assistance from your support system to do so.
Tune-in to your loved ones.
While we have collectively ridden the 2020 rollercoaster, the related impacts and reactions are unique to each individual. During a season when we are managing to-do lists, schedules, and other mandates on our time, attention, and energy, it is easy for the proverbial blinders to keep us laser focused on ourselves. Set an intention to check-in with a loved one as often as reasonably possible. It doesn’t have to be much. It can be as little as a quick text to say, “Hey girl! You were on my mind. How are you doing?” Oftentimes, it can be the simplest gesture that makes the greatest impact.
Megan also encouraged us to, “Be on the lookout for loved ones who are distancing themselves in a way that is out of the norm for them”. For example, not answering telephone calls; not responding to text messages; avoiding gatherings or appearing down if they do attend. We can support our family members, even if they appear “okay” by checking in. Some questions that allow for an open conversation rather than a short response are:
- Tell me about your week.
- Tell me how this pandemic has been for you.
- I wonder what things you have been doing for self-care, I know this pandemic has been challenging.
We want to engage them and let them know that we care, while also checking in. These questions are great for anyone, not just someone we worry might not be coping well. It is often those who wear a mask of happiness that need us to check in the most; so check in with loved ones even if they appear okay.”
Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
There is no quicker route from bah-humbug to blessed than by cultivating an attitude of gratitude. It may sound cliché, but I promise, it’s effective. Whenever I catch myself sending out invites to an upcoming pity party I’m hosting, I immediately stop and count my blessings. There is something so powerful about shifting my perspective from one of comparison, judgement, and wanting to one of adoration, fulfillment, and appreciation. But, how can we genuinely transition our focus? Here are three activities that you can do with your family that can generate great conversation and prompt everyone in your family to take a daily inventory of their blessings.
- RAKin’ Around the Christmas Tree
- Random Acts of Kindness (RAK)… what better way to encourage a shift in focus than by extending love and kindness to others, forcing us to turn our attention outward?
- Random acts of kindness are tailor-made. They can be as simple or as intricate as you like, and modified to support participation from all ages and stages. Let Pinterst be your playground… happy RAKing!
- Ornamental Centerpiece
- Required materials: small ball ornaments, an old flower vase (or small Christmas tree), a permanent marker or paint pen, and LED battery string lights (optional).
- This month, have your family set the intention to share at least one meal together each day (or as close to that as your schedule allows). During this time, each member of the family is to verbally share one thing for which he or she is grateful, write it on the ornament, and then place it in the vase (or on the tree). Throughout the month, your centerpiece will grow, visibly displaying the abundance of your gratitude – and your family will benefit from purposeful connection with one another.
- Joy Jar
- Required materials: Mason jar (or some other container that coordinates with your home or holiday decor), festive paper cut into 3×3-inch squares, and some fun pens.
- This activity can be executed similarly to that described above or can be adjusted to accommodate a family that is more on-the-run. If sitting down to share a meal with your family sounds like some unattainable, unrealistic expectation, that’s okay! The only requirement for this activity is that each family member commits to contributing one item to the Joy Jar daily, indicating something that has brought joy or gratitude into his or her life. Everyone can either sign their names or write on a designated colored or patterned paper. Then, on New Year’s Eve, the family agrees to gather together to share and reflect on all that was submitted into the Joy Jar over the last month.