For those who celebrate holidays as a couple, family, or group of friends, traditionally, this year provides challenges we have not faced as a collective. As individuals, we have ideas for what is best for us and others. As a group, those ideas might not align. Holidays can be a source of joy for many and for others, a source of stress. Planning for how you and your loved ones will celebrate your holidays this year will help create a sense of stability in an uncertain, new time.
Here are some things for you to consider when making decisions with your partner, family, friends; the person(s) you might celebrate with this year, near or far.
Be clear with yourself first.
Take time to reflect on any anxieties, fears, expectations you have for the holidays this year. What is your level of comfort in spending time with others? When you consider your own health, anxiety about becoming sick, how much risk are you comfortable taking? What do the holidays typically bring up for you? Who do you feel comfortable seeing in person and who do you not feel comfortable seeing – and why?
In relationships, do you tend to speak up or do you let others take the lead? How does your tendency help and/or hinder you expressing your feelings, needs, and wants? What might you find helpful in expressing yourself clearly and authentically?
This year is different. We are being asked to limit our interactions with others for the collective safety of each other and to reduce the strain placed on our healthcare industry. Guidance has been confusing and we are receiving conflicting messages depending on where you live. We recommend checking with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and your local health department to better inform your decision-making around your and other’s safety.
Check out our previous post “5 Helpful Tips for Finding Personal Joy This Holiday Season” for more guidance on being clear with yourself first. Knowing when you’re stressed and need to take a time out is also important. If you’re feeling anxious, we recommend these tips from people we have worked with through their anxiety.
Communicate your feelings with your person(s).
Once you are clear about how you are feeling and what you are comfortable with, it is important to share these with others who you might be in conversation with spending the holidays together in some capacity.
If you have a partner or others you live with, it is important for you to take time to talk about your own feelings, needs, and wants for the holidays clearly. Be clear about your reasons for and against anything and everything that might come up. If you are clear, you reduce chances of confusion and misunderstandings. If you are not clear, you risk holding resentment against your person(s) for not valuing your needs, which, is not fair to them or you.
Create boundaries and expectations together.
Once you have communicated your feelings, needs, and wants, listen attentively to your person(s) feelings, needs, and wants. Share and listen with openness, compassion, and curiosity. Listen to understand, not to respond.
Take time to sit down together, without distractions, and talk about what is being asked of you by others outside your household. Identify what you, as a household, feel most comfortable with and make a plan for communicating these to others. Showing respect for yourself and your person(s) in making decisions fuels compassion, understanding, and connection with one another; helping to reduce stress, anxiety, loneliness, and further conflict.
Read here to learn more about boundaries: What Are Boundaries And Why Are They Important? Learn To Set and Keep Boundaries.
Reflect on what you’re grateful for.
The holidays are likely to look different for most people this year. With change and loss of traditions, feelings of grief, sadness, anxiety, grief, frustration, and even relief can come on strong. Taking time to be mindful and name things we are grateful for can help us reorient to more positive, helpful feelings and reflection. Start with the basics: food, shelter, friendships, animals, weather; any small or big thing that comes to mind.
There is no right or wrong way to be grateful. Spending time with thoughts of what you are grateful for is a compassionate nod to yourself. Spend some time with your person(s) sharing gratitude. This type of sharing is a lovely way to connect and reflect on things that warm your hearts together and instills hope in the future.
This year is unlike any others. Being clear with your wants, feelings and needs; clearly communicating those with others; making a plan together with your person(s); and noting gratitude can make this unprecedented time more certain and grounded. Be kind to yourself and others. And remember, we are all in this together.
Denver Metro Counseling is a group of clinicians who provide therapeutic support for teens, adults, parents, and families. We help people build positive relationships with themselves and others.
Article Written By: Julie Reichenberger, MA, LPC, ACC, ACS
Julie is the owner of Denver Metro Counseling and has been working with teens and adults since 2006. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Associate Certified Coach, Approved Clinical Supervisor, EMDR Certified and an EMDR Consultant in Training.
Julie specializes in working with trauma, suicide risk, ADHD, anxiety, depression, and supporting other therapist through personal and professional growth.