For the past month or so, I’ve been having the same, stressful recurring thoughts before bed. I’ve tried CBD, sleepy tea, meditations—and those work sometimes, but there’s like an overall, looming cloud over my head. What’s that, you ask? Oh, just the upcoming holidays and winter season.
The holidays have always been kind of stressful—organizing holiday parties, battling the crowds to shop for gifts, all the traveling, trying to figure out what to bring to the family and/or friends dinner. But with the pandemic getting worse and social gatherings pretty much banned, the holidays have taken on a new level of anxiety for me. My parents are getting older and I don’t see them as much as I’d like, but I always make it a priority to spend time with them during the holidays. This year, things will be looking a bit different, and it’s honestly made me quite sad.
Thankfully, through therapy and other online sources, I’ve come up with a game plan to tackle the upcoming holiday season with my mental health still intact. Want to know my plan? Well, read on.
With the pandemic getting worse and social gatherings pretty much banned, I’ve come up with a game plan to tackle the holiday season with my mental health intact.
1. Start a Pandemic Pod
One of the happiest, most fun things about the holiday season is spending time with our friends and family. Of course, large gatherings are off of the table, but my small group of friends and I have decided to create a holiday pandemic pod. This means that we are honest with each other about where we’ve been, who’ve we’ve come into contact with, and when we are tested. From there, we plan small (I mean literally four total people) gatherings.
We’ve already planned for a bi-weekly brunch and a Friendsgiving dinner, as well as a Christmas gift exchange. Creating a pod requires full transparency and a ton of honesty, so if you’re planning on starting one, make sure it’s with people you can trust and don’t mind asking to wear a mask in your home or to bring hand sanitizer and wipes.
2. Create Themed Chat Appointments With Friends and Family
I know, we’re all tired of Zooming and FaceTiming, though it’s the safest way to connect with our friends and family. But it doesn’t have to be the same ol’ thing every week. My best friend Steve and I have started doing the Sunday crossword every week with coffee and/or cocktails over FaceTime, and it’s something I look forward to every week. You can also start a family game night, or even a movie night with friends.
I am also obsessed with the Netflix party app, an extension you download on your computer that allows you and your friends to chat (in a chat box) while your favorite movie or TV show is playing. If you’re an introvert like me, don’t worry—it’s low to zero pressure, since you don’t have to be on video. Right now, my friends and I are watching The Great British Bake-Off each Friday on Netflix. There is something super comforting knowing that my friends are watching TV with me.
3. Decorate Your House in the Holiday Spirit
Yes, it’s November, and normally I’d side-eye anyone putting up Christmas decorations so early, but I’m now the one stocking up on wreaths and trees at Costco. According to experts, putting up holiday decorations earlier can help with your mental health. Why? Well, the nostalgia of the holidays and all of the carefree childhood memories make us happier, and seeing all of the awesome decorations amplify that. I already put a wreath above my fireplace and strung up tiny LED Christmas lights around my windows. It has made SUCH a difference, I can’t even tell you. My home feels cozy, warm, and happy, just like the holidays.
4. Live in the Now
In today’s society, we are always thinking of the future: What’s my 5-year career plan? What will I do this weekend? Will I be able to take a vacation next year? With the pandemic raging on, thinking about the future makes me want to curl up in a ball and never emerge from my house. Thankfully, all we have to do to avoid the doom and gloom of speculating about what will happen, is to focus on what is happening in the present moment.
If I think about my life on a micro, day-to-day scale, I’m actually quite happy. I’m able to take in little moments of happiness throughout my day, like listening to my dog dream while she’s sleeping, or realizing how happy I am, cuddled on the couch with my boyfriend while bingeing Love Island, or laughing at a funny TikTok my friend has sent me. Focusing on those little moments of joy makes me feel so much better. I’ve also started to write down two to five things I’m thankful for each day at the end of the night, which helps me realize that despite all of the madness that is happening in the world, I am safe and loved in my little cocoon.
5. Focus on Things That Make You Feel Good & Make Your Life Easier
I was reading an article on Vice.com about preparing for the upcoming winter, and one tip in particular stood out to me: Think about changes you can make around your space or life that would make you feel good.
I work from home, and the mess on my desk was really making me unhappy. So I ordered a bunch of organizing stuff from the Container Store, and now it actually makes me excited to walk into my “office” everyday. My boyfriend and I hated how our spices were organized in the kitchen, so we did a huge project to figure out how to store our spices in a way that made us happy. Same thing goes for closets, or any nagging issues that you have in your house.
Another thing that fits into this category for me is functional loungewear—clothing that I’m comfortable in in my house, but can still wear outside if I need to pick up a prescription or get curbside pickup. I’m working on building up my new wardrobe now, and honestly, it really makes me content.
What are some things you’re planning on doing to maintain your mental health this holiday season? Let me know in the comments!