Help for the Holidays: Don’t let your mind lie to you.

For some of us, facing the holidays with altered plans feels overwhelming. For some it may even feel hopeless and joy-less. Some may wonder why they should observe the holiday at all. What’s the point?

I understand. It’s easy to feel deflated and defeated. My family of 3 had an unusual Thanksgiving alone, rather than a lively time with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins – some of whom we only see once a year. While it certainly wasn’t what we would choose, it was necessary and even (in some ways) good.

So, I want you to know this: The holidays can be good even if they are different. Don’t let your mind tell you otherwise. For example, we thought about the people we missed and recalled our favorite Thanksgiving memories. We prepared our favorite parts of the meal and didn’t bother with the rest. We decorated the tree together the next day. We were thankful we weren’t stuck in traffic! We can still find glimpses of joy in the unexpected and even in the deeply unfortunate.

At the same time, I want you to hear this: Don’t let your mind tell you that you shouldn’t be sad. That’s a lie.

We must grieve what we’ve lost, grieve what cannot be. Lying to ourselves about our feelings will not end well. Moving through the emotions is necessary. As Emily and Amelia Nagoski say in their book Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle:

To be ‘well’ is not to live in a state of perpetual safety and calm, but to move fluidly from a state of adversity, risk, adventure, or excitement, back to safety and calm, and out again. Stress is not bad for you; being stuck is bad for you.

Ignoring our emotions – refusing to processing them – doesn’t make them go away. Actually, they grow bigger and more powerful. Unresolved grief is just one possible result and one that is especially relevant in 2020.

To survive the pandemic with our physical health and not our mental health is not actually surviving.

If your mind is “should-ing” your feelings, call out that lie right now. Say it out loud. Don’t let your mind lie to you. You may need help recognizing the tricks your mind plays on you, and that is ok. (I often do.) Please ask someone you trust to help you or seek out a counselor.

Above all, know you are allowed to hold grief and gratitude at the same time.

Help for the Holidays: Creativity is your friend

You want festive. You want fun. You want fa-la-la-la-la.

How we do we achieve those meaningful moments when we’re faced with constraints like Covid-19 precautions?

I have learned a lot about flexibility and adaptability by observing and listening to disabled individuals, and while I cannot speak for them, I do want to offer what I’ve noticed: They are experts at thinking outside the box and they know how to amp up the ordinary.

Admittedly, I am not the best and often have to borrow the creativity of others. There’s no shame in asking for help! Nevertheless, here are some ideas to at least get your creative juices flowing: 

1. Missing the Nutcracker or a Christmas pageant this year? Maybe you can gather the family members or neighborhood children in your “covid pod” and put on your own production. (My favorite nativity plays were the ones my sister and I did with our best friends who lived next door!)

2. Rent outdoor heaters and have your celebrations in the yard. No yard? Find a local park and picnic shelter where you can bring those heaters. 

3. If you attend church and services are still virtual, consider how you can create a reverent ambience in your home. If you’re accustomed to worshipping by candlelight on Christmas Eve, go ahead and light those candles. You can even dress up if that’s your thing.  [Side note: A silver lining of this pandemic has been discovering the ways in which formerly un-inclusive settings can be more inclusive for the disabled, and church-at-home is a perfect way to experiment with that!] 

4. Schedule a virtual gathering with your friends or family you won’t see this year, but be a little extra. Play a game like charades, eat a meal together, tell jokes, open gifts that you mailed in advance, etc.

5. Decorate in a different way this year. Maybe this is the year you leave the ornaments in the attic and make paper snowflakes and cranberry strings, or maybe this is the year you decorate the tree with a theme. Maybe you hang treats outside for the birds. Maybe this year you decide not to decorate anything, because that’s what your heart wants most of all. By all means, do that. 

6. If your family has a favorite holiday must-watch movie, make it even more special than usual. Everyone can wear Christmas pajamas and watch in mom and dad’s bed. You can project it on the house and bundle up to watch it outside. You could play a trivia game about the movie beforehand and see who gets the most correct answers as you watch. (That may take a little extra work for one family member to write out the questions.) 

7. Similarly, add spice to your usual activities. Our family, for example, makes pizza every Friday night. We may try a new take-out place or try new toppings on our homemade pizza. We could ask friends to join us outside with their own pizza. Once, to celebrate a special occasion, we ate pizza in the dining room on fancy china and lit candles in crystal candlesticks someone gave us for our wedding. Do you have tacos every Tuesday? Game night every Saturday? Find ways to add variety.

8. Finally, this one may be a no-brainer, but consider how you can make the holidays more special for others.  Covid has brought even more opportunities than usual to serve others, and some are even contactless if you need that option. 

What are your creative ideas for pandemic holidays? 

Help for the Holidays

Thanksgiving is a mere 21 days away. In a normal year, I encourage people to slow down during the holidays, limiting their activities and savoring the ones they choose. 

This year, Covid has probably done a lot of the limiting for you. You probably won’t feel the temptation to rush through the season and attend every. single. event. 

In fact, you may even feel bored, sad, and nostalgic for the past. We crave connection, tradition, and normalcy.

For some families, these feelings occur every year. Disabilities and chronic illnesses prevent them from enjoying many of the activities seemingly mandated by social media and the Hallmark channel.

What to do? How do we not just survive but thrive during the holidays?

As I jotted down ideas, I realized they fall into two categories:

  1. How we use our time
  2. How we use our minds

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing ideas both here and on Instagram for using our time and our minds wisely and creatively. Let’s enjoy the holidays in ways that work for our families, no matter what that looks like. Shall we?