It’s December, which means that several holidays are on the horizon. Some people tend to enjoy the holidays, while others see them as a source of stress or melancholy. Regardless of the person’s history with holidays, this year is different. This year, everyone has to deal with covid during the holidays. A global pandemic affects travel, safety, and expectations, which all influences a person’s mental health. If you want to ensure your mental health with covid during the holidays, keep on reading.

How Covid During the Holidays Affects Mental Health

For many people, holidays often come with certain expectations. These “shoulds” tend to be unconscious, and range on how healthy, fair, and realistic they are. For instance, a person may think, “My holidays should be perfect,” while another person may think, “I should just be with my family during the holidays.” The problem with covid during the holidays is that the pandemic challenges even the most neutral or healthy of expectations. For example, the spread of covid makes traveling to one’s family risky, difficult, or impossible.

When a person’s expectations are not met, they often feel disappointed, angry, or melancholic. Your vision for how you, others, or the world should be was disrupted, which can naturally bring up strong emotions. However, covid during the holidays can be so difficult because it also affects a person’s needs. The needs for connection, community, and celebration are truly valid. They are not a want (i.e., something they can live without), but rather something essential to their life satisfaction. Covid during the holidays encumbers these needs, and thus, a person’s happiness. Therefore, what can you do about it?

Incorporate Healthy Compromises

The pandemic is going to limit what you are able to do, and you still have some control on what you do during the holidays. Take a moment to first think about what your wants and needs are. Once again, wants are things that you care a lot about and can live without, while needs are absolutely essential to your well-being. Create a list of your wants and needs to help you ascertain them. Here are some examples.

Wants

Needs

  • Eating my father’s cooking
  • Exchanging gifts with my family
  • Taking a family picture
  • Playing a board game with my family
  • Seeing my family
  • Having long talks with my family
  • Sharing a meal with my family
  • Knowing that my family is okay

Needs and wants are subjective; this list wasn’t definitive nor objective. After you have taken time to create your list, reflect on healthy compromises. Specifically, prioritize your needs over your wants, and think of activities that would allow you to satisfy as many needs as possible. To be clear, the goal isn’t to have all your needs met, but as many as you can during this pandemic. Here are some healthy compromises based on the earlier list.

  • Virtual meetings with the family
  • Having dinner at the same time over Zoom
  • Sending the family a homemade dessert through the mail
  • Playing an online game with the family
  • Meeting your family outside while 6-feet apart

Be Proactive with Your Self-Care

Another way to ensure your mental health with covid during the holidays is to be proactive with your self-care. As explained earlier, a pandemic during the holiday season will likely spark unpleasant emotions. With this possibility, it isn’t wise to be reactive. For example, if it’s snowing heavily, should you decide to drive slowly after your car slides in the snow? Preemptively address the holiday blues by doing the activities that ground and rejuvenate you. Here are some examples.

  • Going for a long walk
  • Taking a bath with bath bombs
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Attending virtual hangouts
  • Going on a bike ride
  • Engaging in a craft

This list isn’t exhaustive. Simply decide what works best for you. Focus on the activities that bring your peace, fulfillment, and energy. Once you have figured what those activities are, engage in them more often than you normally would. Time restrictions indeed exist; therefore, do what activities you can with the free time allotted to you. Self-care doesn’t have to be something long; it can be as short as a five-minute meditation.

Change Your Perspective

In conjunction with the previous activities, simply shifting your perspective could be beneficial. Let’s be real here: covid during the holidays is extremely abnormal. A pandemic of this size has not occurred since the early 1910s. Therefore, there’s no way this holiday season could meet past expectations, and that’s okay. Instead of having the expectation of past extravagance, it can be more beneficial to have the expectation of simply surviving. It may sound trite, but it’s important to remember how deadly and devastating covid has been. This year has been extremely challenging, and it’s okay to simply try to survive it. Give yourself that permission. To be clear, this isn’t saying that you should dismiss your disappointment, frustration, or sadness with covid during the holidays. Those feelings are valid. Simply shifting your expectations could decrease the chance of the emotions even happening. For additional help with this, think of your past.

There’s a high chance that you were really excited for something, but a sudden misfortune got in the way (e.g., getting sick right before your summer trip). You likely did not sulk the entire time, so reflect on how you were able to get through that disappointment. For some people, it helped to focus on what they had control over, while accepting what they didn’t. For you, write down what you can still do versus what you can’t change. Here’s an example using the summer trip scenario.

What I Can’t Do

What I Can Still Do

  • I can no longer travel to Florida
  • I can’t do anything too physical for at least a day
  • I can no longer relax at a beach
  • Catch up on all of my favorite shows
  • Read the new book that just came out
  • Order as much delivery as I want
  • Give myself full permission to sleep in
  • Have breakfast in bed
  • Get pampered by my loved ones

When misfortune strikes, it’s extremely easy to focus on what you can no longer do. However, writing out what’s still possible can curb that disappointment, while also making room for excitement. Focusing on past coping skills, as well as what you still have control over can help you with covid during the holiday season.

Covid during the holidays can truly affect a person’s mental health. Incorporating healthy compromises, being proactive with self-care, and changing your perspective can help with this difficult time. If you are still struggling with your mental health after doing the above activities, it could be beneficial to see a therapist. Go to therapyinphiladelphia.com to find a clinician that is just right for you.