Being told that dealing with the pandemic is “a marathon, not a sprint” isn’t particularly helpful when you weren’t even planning on running a 5K this year, let alone suddenly being forced into this metaphorical marathon.
Even if you love the holiday season, you can probably admit to yourself that it’s stressful. And if you already don’t love the holidays? I imagine that cloud of dread looming over you is probably starting to feel way more oppressive.
I’ve tried to offer you guys a balance of advice about handling social interactions and holidays in The Year of the ‘Rona because I understand that we’re all in different places mentally and emotionally. I don’t want to drag you down with doom and gloom, but I also don’t want to sound like those frustratingly cheery people who always want you to “look on the bright side!” either.
So today, we’re gonna talk about how to get through the holidays if you’re just not feeling it this year. It’s okay if your holiday cheer has left the building. Seriously. Nobody can blame you, and if they do? Well, you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
It’s okay if your holiday cheer has left the building. Seriously. Nobody can blame you.
We Weren’t Built For This
By “this,” I mean “prolonged stress and endless uncertainty.” Humans are great at adapting, and we’re excellent at handling crises that are short-term, even if they have devastating consequences (like natural disasters). They have a definite beginning, a clear path forward, and a definite end. It sucks, but we can manage those kinds of situations.
This long, slow burn crisis, though? It drains us mentally and physically like nothing else could. In fact, right now, more than 80 percent of Americans point to the pandemic as a huge source of stress in their lives.
I’m telling you this so that you can hopefully let go of any guilt you might feel about not being able to just “shake off” the negative things you’re feeling. Everything about your biology is functioning exactly as it should in the face of such a strange and ever-present beast, so all of your feelings are natural and normal.
But We Can Still Get Through It
Like I said before, we may not be made for thriving in a constant state of crisis, but we are amazingly adaptive. Don’t discount the fact that you’ve made it this far, after all! That alone is something to be proud of.
So you’re not feeling festive. No big deal. But before you withdraw into your no-holiday cave, I think it could be helpful for you to do an honest evaluation and ask yourself why you’re not feeling the holidays.
Does the thought of celebration just sound exhausting? Do you feel like it’s pointless to decorate? Are you sad or resentful because you can’t see your friends and family?
We may not be made for thriving in a constant state of crisis, but we are amazingly adaptive. Don’t discount the fact that you’ve made it this far!
Whether it’s any of those feelings I mentioned or something totally different, putting a name to the emotion can help you process it. This makes it less overwhelming, and you might even find that you’re able to feel some small measure of joy in its place! You still might not want to whip out the garlands, but you’ll at least feel a little lighter.
The Flip Side: Celebration Stress
Some of you might be having the opposite problem. Maybe you feel forced to attend a holiday gathering, or maybe you want to try to safely host a celebration. That can definitely bring on its own set of stresses that would make anyone dread the holidays.
If your festive feelings are being sapped away by celebration anxiety, here are a few tips for lowering your stress levels so that you can enjoy the time with your loved ones.
1. Don’t be shy about boundaries
Anyone who loves you should understand and respect any boundaries that you put in place! Whether you’re hosting or attending, make your expectations about touching, eating, and social distancing clear as soon as you can. If family members don’t respect your wishes, remember that you’re not obligated to stay! Your health (physical and mental!) is more important than Aunt Susan’s obsession with hugging everyone.
2. Try to establish some healthy habits
Doing just one or two kind things for yourself every day can do wonders toward making you feel more capable and less stressed. Whether it’s nightly sheet masking, taking a walk, making an extra cup of tea, or just committing to going to bed at the same time every night, creating small moments of self-care now can help to fortify you mentally and emotionally, and it reinforces the idea that you’re worth caring for!
3. Reach out for help
I know it’s hard to ask for help, but if there was ever a time for it, it’s 2020. Maybe you’ll choose to be more vulnerable with close friends. Maybe you’ll ask your spouse for support on tough days. Maybe you’ll take the plunge and sign up for online therapy.
There are so many avenues for finding support and help if you decide to reach out! You can even talk to your regular doctor about your struggles and ask for his or her advice.
Let’s Find Those Tidings of Comfort and Joy
If you’re not exactly feeling the holiday cheer this season, you’re definitely not alone. Rather than forcing yourself to be festive or hiding away in solitude, my suggestion is to find a balance as much as you can.
You don’t have to be upbeat and jolly, but you shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by negative feelings, either. Be kind to yourself exactly as you are, and if you find any small parts of the holidays that make you happy (like stringing up lights or eating gingerbread), then do those things!
How are you going to handle the holidays this year? Let’s talk about it in the comments!