By Heather Bach MA, CCC
Director, Bach Counselling Group
Although the COVID-19 situation improved compared to last year, holiday celebrations will still be faced with some challenges. Whether you’re adjusting your holiday plans for a smaller table setting or trying to visit your family and friends, different perspectives regarding COVID may add to holiday stress.
Here we’re sharing five tips, tools, and strategies to help make your holiday season a positive and memorable one!
1. Check-in with yourself! Invite uncomfortable feelings with compassion
It’s normal to have feelings of grief and discomfort this season. The key to getting through the difficulty of negative emotions comes from letting there be space for these challenging feelings to be dealt with compassion.
Validate the challenges that have been presented to you and your loved ones. Notice your inner voice and imbue a tone of compassion as you allow moments of discomfort with a welcome and gentle reception. Welcome the unwelcome for a few moments at a time. And with compassion, identify what you need for comfort ensuring your choices are healthy in nature. (Maybe delay that extra glass of wine?)
Take some much-needed time out for yourself where you are resting, pursuing a hobby, or interest you find relaxing, interesting, and enjoyable. Take a moment now to schedule some time for you to rest, restore and simply be.
2. Focus on what you can control
Focusing solely on what is out of our control fosters anxiety. Pull your attention back to the things in your life that you can control, in the here and now. This can include focusing on your weekly routine, some special new holiday plans with loved ones and/or your to-do list.
Resist thinking too far ahead. An anxious brain is fed by attempting to control the future, the uncontrollable…and this is a surefire way to maintain and elevate an already-anxious state. Your brain and anxiety respond well to structure and routine.
You can also simply pull your attention to the sensations of your breath. Now this is something that is predictable, something you can trust to be there from moment to moment.
3. Practice virtual gratitude for loved ones
Although the restrictions on gatherings have been loosened, there are still some who are vulnerable and will continue to isolate during this season but it doesn’t mean that you cannot show your friends and family some appreciation. Find new creative ways to show your gratitude with special letters, cards, homemade gifts or take advantage of online gift-giving services to keep the tradition of gifts alive no matter where your loved ones are across the globe.
Schedule that Zoom gathering and make an extra effort to recognize those with additional challenges to physical closeness and reach out as a part of your practice of extending compassion and in the spirit of the holiday season.
4. Spend time outside doing physical activity
Without question, the relationship among mood, anxiety and fitness is strong. Research has clearly established the connection between regular physical activity and elevated mood. Plan different ways you can stay active: two walks a day, run, stationary bike, weights, online fitness, yoga… or whatever works for you to maintain and/or grow your level of activity.
5. Schedule your Holiday traditions
Keep the holiday spirit alive – bringing forward some of your favourite traditions. Whether it’s cookie baking and decorating, a holiday puzzle, a classic holiday recipe or a walk around a neighbourhood displaying seasonal lights, you know what you enjoy most. Be sure to schedule these markings of the season in your calendar!
Remember, you’re not alone. Let’s all reach out a little further this year to those in need of a little extra support. And if that’s you, let friends and family know you’re struggling. Allow them to help you by listening, by being there. And if you or someone you love is struggling to manage now or through the holiday season, reach out for help. We are here for you.
Whatever you choose over this season, we wish you and your loved ones a very warm, gentle and sweet holiday season.
Heather Bach and all of us here at BCG.