Tips to foster gratitude and generosity this holiday season

Here are some tips for taking care of yourself during December. If you’re having a hard time, you’re not alone.

I hope your Thanksgiving holiday was small, sweet and safe.

Thanksgiving weekend signals the march toward the December holidays, celebrations where families have time-honored and much-loved traditions. But this year will be different, both in small and big ways.

For the last year, we’ve been managing changes in our daily routines. We’ve had to adjust to new ways of working, learning and staying connected to the people we care about. It’s been stressful, scary and, at times, exhausting.

The idea of missing out on treasured opportunities to connect in person with our loved ones is sad and disappointing. This is on top of the additional stress and anxiety many are feeling during this uncertain time. It’s especially hard for adults who are alone and unable to be with their friends or family. And the holidays can be painful for those of us who have lost their jobs and have financial worry.

Most families are already coping with more “together time” than ever. The result is periodic frayed nerves, even before the added strain from changing how we celebrate the holidays. And others are struggling with painful isolation and loneliness.

These are hard times. It’s natural to feel a sense of disappointment, sadness and frustration.

But here we are, in the middle of a once-in-a-hundred-year global pandemic. The entire world is in the same boat. It’s an opportunity for us to pivot, adapt and be flexible — all components of resilience.

Here are some tips for taking care of yourself during the 2020 holiday season:

Be realistic. Keep your expectations in line with reality. Accept that this holiday season will be different than years past.

Set reasonable goals that fit your schedule and budget. Make healthy spending decisions and prioritize ways to celebrate that don’t cost money.

Put your health first. Avoid overindulging in food and alcohol. Maintain your regular healthy eating, exercising and sleep habits. Make time for yourself to rest and recharge. Enjoy a hot bath with candles and lavender. Take a walk in nature, rain or shine, and soak up our Northwest beauty. Stretch, take an online yoga class or go for a run. Listen to beautiful music.

Connect. Reach out to friends and family, organize a family Zoom gathering, have a virtual holiday meal, include friends in your virtual get-together that you know may be alone, especially older adults who may be isolated.

Be festive and creative. This year I’m going to put up more lights around our house, bringing more light to this darker time of year. I’m also going to be more festive during our small holiday meal. I’m going to play more music that I enjoy. We’ll be attending the virtual performance of the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s “Nutcracker.”

Cultivate gratitude and generosity. I am thankful that my family and I are healthy during the pandemic. I am thankful that I have the opportunity and privilege to help others as a psychologist. During this holiday season, I’m donating more to local charities that make sure families have enough food to eat.

Reach out if you need help. If you are struggling with feeling sad, depressed or anxious during this holiday season, you may need more help. Call the Optum Support Helpline at 1-866-342-6892 or Care Crisis at 1-800-584-3578.

Paul Schoenfeld is a clinical psychologist at The Everett Clinic. His Family Talk blog can be found at www.everettclinic.com/family-talk-blog.

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