The holidays are almost upon us - yayyyy? Holidays were meant to commemorate significant cultural or religious events, a time for families and good friends, many of whom we rarely see except at this time of year, to gather together and celebrate, usually with elaborate planning and anticipation, eating of favorite traditional foods, and too often lots of drinking.
We may look forward to the November and December holidays with cheerful expectation, digging out those familiar recipes, inviting people over or traveling to their places for elaborate dinners and parties, the cheer, gift-giving, and togetherness. One of my fondest memories is my Grandmother’s wonderful apricot cookies. We kids would run into the kitchen and gobble them up, often ruining our appetites for the real dinner. My Mother always set the table beautifully, as we anticipated the arrival of my Aunt and Uncle and cousin. I grew up in a mixed family with different traditions, so we enjoyed foods of all kinds.
But it is not always like that. The reality is that for many the holidays can be full of stress, sadness, and even full-out depression. We become overwhelmed by all the planning and preparation. Arguments may crop up. Most of all, while we always remember and miss those loved ones who are no longer with us, it often is especially poignant at holiday time.
It’s not that the holidays cannot be a good time - just that they are often not what we expect and this can cause emotional distress. It helps to be aware of this and set realistic expectations. To help combat stress, pace yourself. Do not take on more responsibilities than you can handle. WebMD recommends trying something new, spending time with supportive, caring people, and making time for yourself (https://www.webmd.com/depression/holiday-depression-stress#1).
This year, with a rampant pandemic raging all around us, we are filled with fear, safety concerns, even anger. Far from “holidays as usual”, this is above and beyond the normal stress, anxiety, and melancholy.
The NIH (National Institutes of Health) offers good suggestions and important guidelines to celebrate in ways that can help us all stay safe and healthy during this time of COVID-19 and protect those we care about (https://directorsblog.nih.gov/2020/11/12/planning-your-holidays-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/ paraphrased):
Celebrating holidays alone or with your immediate household members can sound rather dreary. After all, who wants to roast and carve a turkey for just a few people? But the pandemic does offer opportunities to make this a season to remember in new and different ways. Here are a few ideas to consider:
Send Gifts. Although COVID-19 has changed our lives in many ways, sending cards or gifts remains a relatively easy way to let loved ones know that you’re thinking of them. Who wouldn’t want to receive some home-baked goodies, a basket of fresh fruit, or a festive wreath or other hand-crafted gift?
Make Videos. When visiting family, there is often music involved. This year, why not make a video of a few songs or other holiday-themes and send them to others by text or email.
Share a Meal Remotely. With all of the videoconferencing platforms now available, it is easy to remotely share a meal and good conversation with friends and family members, wherever they are. That gives everyone a chance to cook and share stories and memories via smartphone, tablet, or laptop.
Take an After-Dinner Walk. Stay physically active. Make exercise a daily priority, even during the holidays. After your holiday meal, go on a virtual group walk. Thanks to your smartphone’s camera, you can share your time outdoors and interesting sights along the way.
Stay Safe. If you plan to join a holiday gathering in person, it’s important to remain vigilant, even with dear friends and loved ones. The greatest risk for spread of COVID-19 right now is family gatherings. Remember there are risks associated with travel and interacting with people who’ve not been tested for the coronavirus prior to the event, especially if they reside in a COVID hot spot- which is almost everywhere these days. Try to keep family gatherings brief and small, about five people or less. If the weather permits, hold the get-together outdoors.
To protect yourself and your loved ones, both now and over the holidays, please follow these
• Wear a mask when you are out in public and indoors with people who are not part of your immediate household. The only exception is while eating or drinking! • Watch your distance, staying at least 6 feet away from people who are not part of your immediate household. • Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.
Making these adjustments is a lot to consider when you’re trying to have a good time and there are children and older adults in the mix. That’s why many decided the best plan for this holiday season is to stay home and forgo traditional trips to other states to reduce the risk of possibly contracting COVID-19 from - or transmitting it to- loved ones, as well as local friends and co-workers.
While this holiday season is likely to be memorable in ways that we never could have imagined, thanks to the rapid advances being made by medical research, we ultimately will get the COVID-19 pandemic under control so we can once again give everyone we love a big hug in person. Until then, please stay safe.
Forevernearme.com wishes each of you a wonderful and healthful holiday season, starting with a Happy Thanksgiving!