As the holidays quickly approach, you may feel mixed feelings of joy and sorrow. In this year of pandemic and social distancing, events and gatherings you usually look forward to may look quite different. For many, the holidays amplify loneliness and loss.
Amidst the hanging of the greens and the sweet sounds of carols, how do you reclaim joy? How do you connect when COVID-19 has left so many of us lonely?
Be intentional to seek connection and consider some of these tips for a healthier, happier holiday season.
Remember you’re not alone. Establish regular check-ins with loved ones. You might even ask someone you trust to check in on you daily. For the holidays, find special ways to celebrate through video calls, care packages, favorite foods or socially distanced get-togethers. The truth is that 43 percent of seniors report feelings of loneliness. The good news: your neighbors at Montereau would welcome connection. Call, email, take a walk together. Don’t ignore loneliness; researchers equate the health risks to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Be intentional with your conversations. When you do connect with someone, go beyond the surface. Ask how they’re really doing. Ask questions that allow them to talk more deeply about themselves and their life experiences. What is their favorite holiday memory? What have they missed doing in 2020? Having more meaningful conversations is good for the soul. If you can’t do that in person, call, email or start an old-fashioned letter exchange.
Start a gratitude journal or jar. Write down something that you’re grateful for each day. Sometimes reflecting on the positives in life, helps us to shift our focus from the difficulties. There are so many ways to be thankful and positive. Research indicates that simply taking 5 minutes a day to write down what we are grateful for can enhance our long-term happiness by over 10 percent.
Get creative. If the grandchildren can’t come for the holidays, arrange with their parents to have baking supplies on hand, and you can bake cookies together via video conference. Go outside and look at the stars together, even if you’re in different locations. Get a recordable book and mail it to your grandchildren or nieces and nephews so they can hear your voice reading to them. Send some extra Christmas cards this year — send early and hopefully you’ll get a few more in return.
Care for your health. Get seven to nine hours of sleep each night, eat healthy meals, avoid tobacco products, drink no more than one alcoholic drink per day, and get some physical activity each day. Walk, garden, do aerobic videos online.
Develop healthy routines. Find practices that bring you joy. Perhaps it’s prayer and an early morning walk. Maybe you light a candle before you eat. You might call a loved one on a regular schedule. Adding structure to your days can help you move forward, even on tough days.
Give back. Sometimes one of the most joyful acts is giving.Choose a favorite nonprofit and give a bit more this year. Surprise a friend or relative who has been especially impacted this year due to job loss or cutbacks with a check or gift card. Volunteer in person or online.
Stay informed, but not engrossed. Get facts on COVID-19 from trusted sources such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization, and your local or state health department. However, do not spend hours glued to the news, which can heighten stress.
The holidays can be hard on our mental health, but they can also bring joy. Plan ahead to celebrate the season and make it a brighter time for others, too.
November 10, 2020