Thanksgiving 2020 is going to beâ€”or probably should be if you’re being safeâ€”hard for a lot of people.
Consider yourself lucky if your hard is because you can’t see your family. It means they are still here, and you are maybe saving their lives, and the lives of those you’ve never met.
My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones this year, whether to covid or to other causes. Welcome to the club, it sucks, and you joined in a particularly sucky year. The good news (in my limited three years of experience) is that the first year is the shittiest, so hopefully you will never be grieving a loved one at a holiday during a pandemic again! (*see grief resources at the bottom)
I am not spending the holidays with my family for the first time in my 37 years on this planet. I managed to get home in September when things weren’t as bad, and I figured it wouldn’t be good at Thanksgiving, so I’ve had some time to adjust to Thanksgiving. Plus, I am able to spend Thanksgiving with my tiny podâ€”my dear friend/upstairs neighbor and her husbandâ€”which makes things a little easier.
But Christmas. Christmas. If you’ve read my blog, you know what a big deal Christmas has been to me, what a big deal it was for my mom. I toyed around in my head with a million scenarios of how I could have made it work. I would have quarantined at my cousin’s, like I did in September, been tested, etc…but in the end, it wasn’t worth the risk for me. At the beginning of the pandemic, my mental health was in a dangerous spot and I had a bit of a crisis, and I was really afraid of being alone for the holidays. But as Kate (friend/neighbor) said, “There would not be enough therapy in the world for you if something happened to your dad.” A wise woman, she is.
But that said, the holidays are hard enough without my mom. There’s a raging pandemic, and I can’t see my family. I’m incredibly stressed out with school right now.
So here’s what I’m doing to care for my mental health during this time:
- Trying my best to be gentle with myself. I’ve heard so many friends saying: “Ugh, I don’t know why I’m so tired/have no motivation/energy right now.” I always answer “I don’t know, is there a global pandemic/ civil unrest, racism/[insert their own issue] etc. going on??” And yet, I have that same thought and continue beating myself up for not dealing with it. I’m trying to catch myself when I’m having those thoughts, andâ€”this one is such a clicheâ€”talk to myself the way I would talk to those friends.
- Done is better than perfect. Going off the above, some days I am super depressed, some days I am incredibly anxious (lolol this is not pandemic/holiday specific!!)…but I need to get shit done. Rather than trying to make whatever I’m doing The Best, sometimes just getting it done is an accomplishment.
- Not putting pressure on myself to ~make this a normal holiday~. For a normal holiday, I would get a big tree and decorate my apartment fully and try to force it. This year, I got a little bebe tree from Lowe’s to be delivered.
- Recognizing whatever I’m feeling is valid. I was telling my therapist recently I felt bitter and envious about something, and she reminded me those are valid emotions. They feel like such dirty emotions that we aren’t supposed to admit, but they are super valid. (All feelings are!!) I’ve been seeing decorations up already…and they make me angry. And that’s OK.
- Reaching out to friends/family when I’m really struggling. We are all going through our own shit right now more than ever which makes it hard to reach out sometimes, but most people want to be there for their people. I try to remember to ask if they have the capacity to listen at that time.
- Not overcommitting: one of my tendencies is to overcommit to numb, but those feelings always find another way out! Literally sitting with feelings can be terrifying, but I’m working on it.
- Speaking of literally sitting with feelings: meditation! I’m on a 28-day streak on Insight Timer so far. I am so resistant to it sometimes, and have been for a while, but it brings me a calm few minutes in my day.
- Moving every day. Sometimes that will be a hard run or Peloton ride, sometimes that’s a long walk, sometimes that’s a short walk around the block. (I wrote “just” a long walk, but deleted it because a walk is very much still exerciseâ€”something I’ve been trying to internalize!)
You’ll get through this. We’ll get through this. When I was in treatment, I asked “wtf does ‘getting through’ mean?”
“Sometimes it just means getting to the next minute/hour/day,” the therapist said. One day at a time, and all of this won’t always feel this hard. I love you, whoever you are, reading this.
What are you doing to cope with the holiday season this year?