"However, "best" can simply mean what is the best we have for this moment, based on these circumstances."
As we enter holiday season 2020 there are many people who are dreading this year. The things that we normally do may not be options. A lot of us are far from the people that we love. Some feel stuck and almost all of us feel shamed, in some way, to do what is the "right thing." Deciding what you can do this year feels hard. When we consider what is "best" our mind typically thinks, "greatest of all time." However, "best" can simply mean what is the best we have for this moment, based on these circumstances. This year, these circumstances bring some limitation, but it does not exclude all options. Here are 4 tips to help you create your best plans for this holiday season.
Living in a COVID-19 world has been traumatic for all us. What we know (and what you've heard me say over and over) is that trauma impacts the nervous system. Trauma is about safety and feeling as though you have no way to "protect" yourself. When we are able to view our experiences through the lens of "choice" it allows us to feel more empowered, which helps us to not feel so stuck or depleted by the experience.
You may be seeing people travel, spend time with friends or engage in public activities. The truth is that you can choose to do some of these things too. However, your values and beliefs permit different choices. You are choosing to stay inside, limit your public activity and/or quarantine because it best aligns with your values or perceptions of what is safest. Consider reframing your thoughts to promote the feeling of efficacy (vs. helplessness). Here are some examples.
Old thought: "I can't go outside."
New thought: "I choose to go outside only when necessary because I believe it's safest."
Old thought: "I'm so lonely because I can't see my family right now."
New thought: "I believe the safest thing for me and the one's I love is to not spend time in person this holiday."
In taking the time to consider what you believe and your choice, you may see other opportunities as they present themselves. You may ask yourself: What activities are safer? What are some ways that I can interact with loved ones if not face to face? Is there a safer way to see them this year? Thinking about our situation and including our capacity for choice promotes problem solving and reduces the impact of traumatic experiences.
"Although, not the same it is destined to be a unique experience for us all."
2. Create unique holiday experiences.
Just because the typical things that you look forward to do not feel plausible for you right now, does not mean that you can't do anything. When you consider safety, what are some unique things that you could engage in?
My family typically spends the holidays together. Our immediate and extended family travel from all over the world and converge on my aunt's home in Brooklyn for a day of thanks giving and bonding. This year, we will not be doing that. So, our respective "family bubbles" are spending time together and we all will be on a zoom call to show our meals and talk about what we feel thankful for. This allows us to see each other, and some other people who would not normally be able to join us. Although, not the same it is destined to be a unique experience for us all. Here are some other ideas.
Virtual Holiday Bingo: gather a small virtual group and pick a start date and an end date. Each person try to complete items on the bingo card (try and do them in real time over the course of the days) and then the first person to get to Bingo wins a prize. Alternately, you could create a list and the first person to complete all (or the most) items on the list wins. This creates shared experiences from a far and continues bonding through this season. Planning times to catch up on progress with the list may also help.
Recipe Swap: Swap your favorite recipes (or find some to share) and spend virtual time cooking them together. This could be in preparation for a meal or just anytime through out the season.
Do a "story time:" Consider sharing favorite holiday memories virtually and remembering what you loved most about this time together.
Consider an appropriate socially distant activity. Could ice skating help? Anyone have the capacity to host an outdoor Christmas Movie Night? Thinking of ways to be in closer proximity may support you in creating some amazing memories.
"Likely, this holiday season will have us grieving the loss of time and opportunity with those we love. "
3. Create a "holiday bubble."
By now we are familiar with the idea of a COVID bubble: choosing specific people to spend time with and there is a shared agreement about behavior, testing and safety measures. If your typical bubble is not available, consider forming one for a set period of time. Who is staying in close proximity that you trust? Develop a holiday plan together. This may support you in not feeling so lonely during these times and give you something to look forward to.
4. Is there a safer way?
During these times, the truth is very few things feel 100% safe and it is normal to have alternate thoughts in the back of your mind. However, consider if there is a safer way to do what your heart is calling for. Would you drive a long distance to spend time with loved ones? Would it help if you took a COVID test and quarantined before? Would you/they feel better with a holiday drive-by? What is your desire and is there a way to accomplish it?
The truth is, this year is different and we have to grieve so much loss already. Likely, this holiday season will have us grieving the loss of time and opportunity with those we love. This is to be expected. However, my prayer is that you are able to see what you can do and plan for the safest holiday season possible and experience it with joy and love.