The holiday season is a wonderful time of the year for many people in the United States. It reconnects you with friends and family, provides a respite from your daily schedule, and focuses your mind on important things like thankfulness and giving. However, the coronavirus has turned everything upside down in 2020. Many people have spent the better part of the year at home, working remotely, or not working at all. And that may continue through the holidays, and you may not be able to see friends and family like you would in years past.
When it comes to mental health, the holidays have always been a challenge for many Americans. Learn how to maintain your mental health through a COVID-19 holiday season.
Reach Out for Help
If you’re used to seeing family or friends over the holidays, don’t let this season pass without connecting with others. There are enough technological aids to help you maintain some of your traditions, even if you have to do it remotely. It may not be the same, but the important part of holiday traditions is forming connections and making memories with loved ones, and you can do that even over video chat.
You may even start new traditions. After a year of various levels of quarantine and social distancing, many people have come up with new ways to connect with people remotely. You can have a Christmas movie marathon using streaming services like Disney Plus. You can play online party games. It may be a challenge but don’t be afraid to embrace technological tools to help you connect with loved ones.
If you don’t have traditions where you see friends and family members each year, create new ones, or seek them out. Isolation during the holidays has long been a common source of depression and anxiety, even before the virus. But when isolation all year long has been your experience this year, it may be even more damaging to your mental health through the holidays. If you don’t have traditions you plan to adapt to a virtual or socially distanced setting, make some. The recovery community has a variety of methods to connect people with their community.
Take Care of Someone Else
If you’re in the recovery community, you know the emphasis that is placed on stepping outside of your own challenges and helping others. It’s a lesson you may have learned in 12-step or in group therapy sessions, but it’s important. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even suggests helping others as a way to maintain mental health through quarantine. They say, “Taking care of your friends and your family can be a stress reliever, but it should be balanced with care for yourself.”
As long as you’re able and not spread too thin so that you’re neglecting your own needs, reaching out to others can relieve stress and leave you feeling more fulfilled than if you just worry about your own challenges all the time. Plus, it may make a huge difference to someone who may be struggling this holiday season.
Make Plans and Take on Challenges
It may be tempting to let the holidays float by like much of the year has. If you can’t go out anyway, why not just let it pass like any other day. However, idleness is often the enemy of mental health. It allows your mind to wander, and boredom may trigger other negative emotions and destructive thinking.
Whether it’s the holidays or just another weekday, it’s important for you to make use of your time, even through lockdowns and quarantine. There is an entire world on your phone and computer that can connect you with educational endeavors, hobbies, and side-projects. Explore some of your interests and commit to a new challenge.
In recovery, you probably learned what it meant to work towards big goals through achievable objectives. Find something worth doing and pursue it. If you’ve worked and made progress in therapy, there’s probably a lot more you can achieve, whether it’s cooking a turkey, writing a book, or learning a new language. Remember, the positive use of your time is the most important part. Even if you find that a pursuit is very difficult, the fact that you’ve avoided idleness for something constructive is a victory in itself.