Getting through the pandemic holiday season

pexels-julia-volk-511085_20201214-215919_1

Balancing the deep desire for a traditional holiday gathering while combating the feelings of loneliness and isolation because of the Covid 19 pandemic can feel overwhelming.

Since the holiday season is short and goes quickly, it creates a sense of urgency and overwhelm making you feel like there's so much to do and so little time to get everything done. Expectation is also a huge cause of stress during the holidays. Everything from holiday shopping and gift giving to virtual family gatherings come with expectations that are most often unrealistic which causes you to stress about measuring up to those expectations whether they are your own or ones held by family and friends. This year in particular, we may be feeling isolated and lonely.

Below are some tips to help you manage and cope through the holiday season.

1. Limit Social Media

When we get stressed or feel overwhelmed, we can begin to feel alone in our struggles, especially when we see everyone else seemingly 'happy' and having everything under control. Social media, with those Facebook and Instagram perfect pics, can be a huge culprit of making it seem like everyone except you having it all together. Even though social media is for "connecting" with others it can actually do the opposite and make you feel less connected and more alone especially when you compare your life to those you see. Try limiting time on social media to once or twice a day at most and for no more than 20 minutes.

2. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness teaches you how to be aware of your feelings, to feel them in your body and to allow and accept them without creating a narrative around them. This practice allows you to feel the emotions and to be curious and compassionate with yourself around your feelings without judgment. Often when we do this, we may cry or feel an intensity of emotions for some time and in accepting and inviting these feelings to be present they dissipate and more calm and peace prevails.

3. Engage in activities that elicit a different emotion
Change your mood by engaging in behavior that is opposite to what your current emotion is pulling from you. For example, if you are angry and feel yourself tensing up, then try to open your posture, uncross your arms and take a few deep breaths. Similarly, if you are feeling sad and lonely and want to withdraw then make a point to reach out to friends or watch a funny movie to help mitigate sadness.

The theory behind the skill 'opposite emotion' is that every emotion is accompanied by an urge to engage in certain behaviors and these behaviors perpetuate the emotion. For example, the action urge for anxiety is avoidance. The more you avoid something you fear, the more intense your anxiety will become, and so approaching what you fear will help reduce anxiety both because you will learn the situation is okay and because you aren't continuing to reinforce your fear by avoiding the situation. A common misconception of this skill is often that the opposite emotion is simply doing what you don't want to do, but there is more to it than that. It is important to note that the goal is not to push away your emotion or suppress it, but rather to work on cultivating another emotion.

4. Focus on what you can do for others
Gather your friends over Zoom and make some special plans to have a wonderful day. Send cards or personal notes to everyone who means a lot to you. Or, use your energy and resources on behalf of people who need your help. Volunteer to grocery shop for a senior, help at a homeless shelter, or donate some of your less loved belongings to a charity or shelter. Giving back to the world with no expectation of reciprocity is the best way to fend off the blues and increase your well-being.

Make your holidays a spiritual growth time and cultivate joy. Consider doing something different than usual, this is a great time to try something new! Perhaps you can attend a virtual workshop or online course, dust off an old hobby or start a book club with weekly video chats to connect with your loved ones and nurture your soul. If you are clear about what will make the holiday season special for you and plan activities that create connection and conversation, you may find that your outlook will change.

5. Change the Narrative
We are living in uncertain times and although we may know this situation will not last forever, perhaps we need to reflect on how we have all pivoted? Take a moment to reflect and ask yourself, What did I survive this year? What obstacles did I overcome? And what do I need to celebrate? And most importantly, what are you thankful for? Now, write those things down.

Think about what will create the most meaningful experience for you. It's a great time to look within.

Written by Sue Conder. For more information about our coaching programs contact sue@12weekstowellness.com. 

Sue Conder is an experienced and successful fitness industry veteran with a mission and passion to inspire people to live stronger, healthier, more balanced lives for over 25 years. Sue's work background and extensive experience in fitness and wellness includes both corporate and private health and wellness program facilitation in both North America and Europe as well as owning and operating "Sue Conder Yoga and Wellness" since 2002. She is passionate about giving back with a significant amount of volunteer work and many more service related offerings. Sue is a CanFit PRO Trainer, Yoga instructor, Fitness and Nutrition Specialist with a Fitness Leadership & Recreation Diploma from Simon Fraser University and an Associate Science Degree from Capilano University.


Turning your New Years resolution into a sustainab...
Tips to stay healthy and happy through the winter