It's no secret the holidays are stressful. The events intended to bring us joy during the season — parties, family reunions, work get-togethers — instead become minefields as we try to deal with intoxicated loved ones, or the uncertainty of how to act around someone in treatment and recovery, or for those of us in recovery, maintaining our own sobriety.
Now compound the stress of holiday time by throwing in a worldwide pandemic.
According to the CDC, fear and anxiety about a new disease and what could happen can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Public health actions, such as social distancing, can make people feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety. However, these actions are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Coping with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.
To many folks I know, the holidays are the "happiest time of the year," but at Holiday time in 2020, people are telling me they expect this holiday to actually become the most difficult time of the year. I expect that to be true with my own family this year.
Just like most holidays, there are a host of challenges that present themselves at this time of year: They include the realization that spending time with your family can definitely represent a strong anxiety trigger; and, there are always those painful memories of holidays past which always manage to come to the forefront.
But this year, it is highly likely that many of us will not be going and visiting our families or friends for fear of contracting the Covid-19.
The CDC is thinking ahead, too, as they've recently added comprehensive guidelines for each holiday, offering general information about celebrations during the fall and winter as well as assessments on potential activities based on risk-level. It's a terrific resource to keep handy as the holidays approach. (interested? Here's the link: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html
There are plenty of other concerns, from at-risk members of your family (both the ones you're traveling with and ones you're planning on visiting) to the mode of transportation to what your plans are when you arrive. It's important to think about where you'll stay and, then, what the details of your family gatherings will actually be.
If, after taking all of these risks into account, you decide to skip the holiday gathering, that's fine. It's important to keep your feelings, comfort and responsibilities at the forefront.
Your situation could also change suddenly. Whether it's a positive test or an onset of symptoms for either you or your family, it's possible that even the best-made plans might go sideways at the last minute. We suggest you talk about these possibilities ahead of time, too.
Once the decision has been made to forgo the holiday trip or skip the family gathering, you're going to have to cope not just with your own emotions, but your family's emotions, too. It is best to acknowledge some of the negative emotions and the sadness or disappointment that will come with such decisions. Just remembers that ignoring emotions is NOT the same as controlling them – you're just suppressing them"
It is really okay to admit that you're sad and disappointed and that you'll miss these events and seeing folks you haven't seen in months. So make alternate plans for this holiday season, and make some for next year.