Given the type of year that 2020 has been, it is no wonder that most of the blog posts have been about ways to cope and navigate with stress, anxiety, and/or depression in the midst of a pandemic. Between the loss of so many icons in Black culture, social unrest, a summer of protests for Black Lives, and the most tense election campaign of our lifetimes, it feels like we have been hit with a new trauma each month. During my sessions with clients, I try to end on a positive note, and I would like to bring the same energy to my writing. So for my last blog post of the year, I want to focus on how we can brighten up the end of the year and enjoy the holidays. You may be wondering how that is even possible to do so when we are in the midst of a holiday season that looks like nothing we have ever seen before. We are being advised not to travel to see our loved ones, told to stay inside, and the places we once enjoyed going out to eat and enjoying ourselves are either shut down or operating at low capacity. Despite all of these truths, there are still ways to reclaim your joy during the holidays.
Accept the Change
Of course this year will be different than others. Comparing this holiday or focusing on what is missing this year will not be helpful. Instead, try readjusting your expectations. Maybe this means creating new holiday traditions with loved ones, that you’ve never tried before. Since you may not be leaving the house for Christmas, maybe it’s time to start a matching PJs tradition or a movie marathon. Another idea may be piling up in the car, and going to a drive thru holiday light show near you. In addition to adjusting your expectations, it can be helpful to remind yourself that the way we are operating this holiday season doesn’t mean these changes will last forever. Try to look at this season as something temporary to make the best out of and not an entire loss.
Unleash your Creativity
Of course there are some holiday traditions that are just too good to give up. So get creative and find a new way to make them happen. For example, if you’re used to your mom’s cooking but you won’t be seeing her then maybe she can teach you how to make the recipe over video chat. Everything has become virtual now, so if you’re bored of Zoom and Facetime I completely understand. If you’re a competitive family, try a virtual escape room. Gathering outdoors is recommended for our safety so moving celebrations outside if you can is another great way to still enjoy your holidays. Activities such as bonfires, ice skating, making a snowman, or hanging Christmas decorations outside can still bring the comfort and delight that you are used to feeling during the holidays.
Get in the Holiday Spirit
If you haven’t already, you may want to watch the feel good holiday movie “Jingle Jangle” on Netflix. As Dr. Joy and I discussed on the latest episode of the Therapy for Black Girls Podcast, Jingle Jangle puts you in a world of magic and wonder, while also providing some really positive messages for all ages. If you’ve already seen the movie or have had enough of staring at screens, there are plenty of other ways to get into the holiday spirit in the comfort of your own home. Set up a Christmas tree with your family, listen to holiday music with loved ones, have a game night, drink some hot cocoa, the ideas are endless. Remind yourself of what it is about the holidays that really brings you cheer.
There have been plenty of studies that show the benefits of practicing gratitude. With so many negatives in one year, finding gratitude should be easier than ever. If you’re reading this article right now, then odds are you are alive and healthy in the middle of a nine month pandemic. Take time to write out what or who you are grateful for. Focus on the growth and challenges you have overcome this year. See if any of your difficulties have taught you lessons that you can apply to the years ahead.
In addition to practicing gratitude, serving others can be a great way to reclaim your joy. By helping others that are less fortunate, it can put things in perspective and allow you to realize what you may be taking for granted. Maybe it looks like donating items you have excess of or are no longer using to help someone in need. Or getting involved with a local community service organization to make a difference. Whether you are donating your time, money, or your talents, serving someone else can take your mind off of whatever daily anxieties or stresses you may be experiencing. Plus the satisfaction you receive from knowing that you’ve brightened someone’s day, can in turn brighten yours as well.
The most important way to cultivate joy this holiday season is to take safety precautions as much as possible. These restrictions may not be fun, but there will be less anxiety and stress around the holidays if you know that you are not putting yourself or loved ones in danger. Visit the CDC website to see how you can go about making the holidays safer for you and your loved ones. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays/winter.html#consider-other-activities