It’s a different kind of holiday season this year. For those of us in NYC and surrounding areas we are listening closely for what may be a possible second lock down, that along with the current presidential transition and still working from home… Well it definitely is shaping up to be an interesting season for sure.
During this time of year, we traditionally get inundated by the media with all the bells and whistles of what a holiday “should” look like. It sets us up to start fantasizing about this season but this year will be different and we will need to be open to new traditions and new kinds of boundary setting
This is the short list of things that we may have been looking forward to. Most specifically we were all at some level looking forward to being around more people. People need people. We need the energy that is created when more than one person is in the room. Social isolation is a mental and physical health issue:
According to a meta-analysis co-authored by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, PhD, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/05/ce-corner-isolation
“There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality, and the magnitude of the risk exceeds that of many leading health indicators,”
Additionally the holidays without a pandemic in the background lead to isolation and depression. In a 2017 article in Healthline:
Social isolation is one of the biggest predictors of depression, especially during the holidays.
Some people may have a small social circle or a lack of opportunities for socialization. People who have feelings of disconnectedness often avoid social interactions at holiday time. Unfortunately, withdrawing often makes the feelings of loneliness and symptoms of depression worse. These individuals may see other people spending time with friends and family, and ask themselves, “Why can’t that be me?” or “Why is everyone else so much happier than I am?”One of the best ways to deal with social isolation is to reach out to friends or family for support.. https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/holidays
I have just given you information from 2 studies that were done PRIOR to the pandemic. So We can assume that this year is 100xs more stressful. With that we MUST take more time to plan how we will stay connected, create new traditions,
Below are 5 tips to stay connected and fight off isolation and depression during this holiday season.
- Holiday cards! This is a wonderful tradition that if you have not started you can now. Get your pens out and get creative with your words. Each card you send to someone in your life, include a memory that brings up a warm feeling of love and closeness to that person and include that in the card. Our feelings are a direct response to our thoughts, when we recall positive memories, we are helping our brains to create more serotonin and fight off seasonal holiday depression.
- Sing! Now to be clear, I am not a singer but I do sing in the shower and to all my favorite Christmas Songs. Singing reduces stress, improves sleep, increases lung capacity (lung strength can help in the battle against COVID) additionally clears sinus and respiratory tubes (also a COVID fighter), improves posture and well it is just fun. Have as much fun as you can with this exercise and maybe throw in a zoom sing-a-long! Start now – have some fun maybe you can sing with Mariah Carey – who doesn’t love a little Mariah during the holidays? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdI-JRl31iU
- Decorate! Go all out and do it up. Make your home feel as warm and festive as you want. I have seen all the early Christmas trees that have already gone up, if you are thinking about it do it. Personally, I love christmas lights and with the sun going down earlier and the shorter days they do definitely add a difference to the atmosphere in my home. According to a recent article on Today https://www.today.com/home/decorating-christmas-early-makes-you-happier-science-says-t119186 Decorating early will in fact lift your mood. The lighting alone will increase your mood and also lift the mood of people who can also see them — if you are decorating the outside of your home. It’s a nice extra bonus
- Schedule the Zoom Family/Friends Holiday(s) so you have plans to stay connected even if this year you are not in the same place. It will be hard to do getting everyone to get online at the same time. I know ZOOM it’s free service for longer than its 40 minute session this holiday season and I am sure that there are more services out there doing the same. The power of these opportunities can have incredible benefits to your emotional well being. It also allows us to “be together” even if we are not in the same room. Even though we are all battling with ZOOM fatigue of some kind – keeping this connection keeps us together and keeps up checking up on our people and making sure we are all hanging in there
- Scheduling downtime! It has been quite a ride these last 9 months. The ebbs and flows of emotion have taken its toll on all of us. Please be sure to schedule time away from screens and the news and give your senses a break. 9 months ago we all suffered a trauma and our central nervous systems took a hit and we are all tired. Take this time to really recharge and take care of yourselves. Set boundaries around your time and who you connect with, try to not overextend yourself, rest and renew!
I truly hope that you enjoy this coming season and that you create new memories and traditions that will live on in positivity. As always it is perfectly ok and natural to have mixed and conflicting feelings throughout this season. If the feelings of isolation and seasonal depression become too much to tolerate, or you need to talk things out, there is a therapist at BeWELL Psychotherapy who is available to support you through this season and beyond.
P.S. To be the best you this Holiday season and the coming 2021, our BeWELL Psychotherapy practice in New York City is always here. Our BeWELL Therapists are well learned in a variety of fields and are here to help you become your best self. Whether you are struggling with issues related to Anxiety, Depression, Sexual Orientation, Race and Identity, school, or relationships, BeWELL therapists welcome you with an open ear.