For many of us, the holiday season is going to look vastly different this year compared to previous years. The holidays are another area of our lives that have been impacted by COVID-19. If you are stressing over how to handle your holiday plans during this pandemic, you are not alone. Many people are wondering whether they should have family gatherings, limit their family gatherings, or cancel their holiday festivities altogether. No matter how you choose to spend your time, below are some strategies to help you make informed and confident decisions regarding the 2020 holiday season.
First and foremost, it is important to recognize and accept that the experience of the 2020 holiday season is going to be different than in previous years. COVID-19 has changed the way we operate on an individual, societal, and global level. Social gatherings that were once commonplace now require consideration and forethought. Therefore, acknowledging that 2020 is going to be different and accepting that it will be different is the first step in helping you survive this holiday season and find as much joy and pleasure in it as possible.
Try your best not to compare this holiday season to those in the past; also, try not to compare your holiday plans to the plans of others. None of us has experienced Christmas during the middle of a pandemic, so comparisons are not going to be helpful, effective, or accurate. Instead, focus on creating a new tradition or activity you would like to implement with your loved ones. This could include trying a new recipe together, engaging in a holiday craft, or planning an outdoor activity.
Be flexible in your thinking around the holidays and let go of expectations. This year, make it a point to throw away the word should. There is nothing you should be doing this year, aside from enjoying the holidays and squeezing every last drop of pleasure and joy from your experiences. Embrace the change and, instead, throw yourself into the experience of this holiday season. A few years from now, you are going to remember the holidays in 2020. How you view your holiday experience will determine whether this year's experiences are memorable, enjoyable, and fulfilling even while being different. Be open and willing to try new things with your family, and accept the differences this year brings.
Use the advances of technology to stay connected with loves ones. If you decide to limit, reduce, or eliminate gatherings with extended family and friends, incorporate technology as much as possible to help you stay connected with your loved ones. Schedule a family video call on Christmas Eve, share a virtual holiday dinner with your loved ones, and watch your loved ones open their gifts virtually. Get creative!
If you choose to plan or attend in-person holiday gatherings, you may want to take into consideration a number of factors to help protect yourself and your loved ones. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), family gatherings around Thanksgiving and Christmas increase your risk of acquiring COVID-19. The CDC has outlined factors to consider when planning holiday family gatherings. These include:
- Location of the gathering, including whether it is indoors or outdoors and the town/community in which the gathering is being held
- The number of people at the gathering
- Locations that attendees are traveling from and those locations' current COVID-19 numbers
- Behaviors of attendees prior to and during the gathering
The CDC further recommends that in-person gatherings should:
- Be limited in the number of people attending
- Be held outside as much as possible
- Incorporate current local and state social distancing guidelines
- Include people from the local area
- Have hand sanitizer readily available
- Have extra masks on hand
- Encourage guests outside your household to restrict activity for 14 days prior to attending the gathering
Communicate with your loved ones about how you feel regarding in-person gatherings, and don’t apologize for having a different view, feeling, or belief. Respect your own and your immediate family's feelings on what is best. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate this holiday season. The only expectation should be to experience as much joy and happiness as possible because—let’s face it—we could all use as much joy and happiness as possible right now. COVID-19 has changed many of our lives significantly and negatively. This holiday season doesn’t have to fall victim to COVID-19 despite it being different than holidays of the past.
Jacquelyn Buffo is a licensed professional counselor with experience and expertise in substance abuse and mental health issues. She received her MS in mental health counseling from Capella University and is a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor through the state of Michigan. She is also in the process of receiving her certification in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Jacquelyn has experience working with clients suffering from addiction and mental health issues on an in-home, residential, and outpatient basis. Currently, she works with adolescents and adults with Borderline Personality Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder through Henry Ford Health System.