The Holidays Are Here: How to Take Care of Yourself

Images via GiftPundits & Anna Shvets

The holidays are upon us and we are entering a time that is unprecedented for many—celebrating during a pandemic.

Many of us are artists and writers. Some of us are artists full-time while others, like myself, have a full-time job and also write. So I am familiar with managing a lot of responsibilities; a career outside of writing, a household, and my writing deadlines and responsibilities. Yet, now I have to be cognizant of the pandemic, navigate that as well as plan for holiday celebrations. It’s a lot, and so here are a few things I am planning on doing over the next few weeks and months to manage my mental health, and hopefully some of these tips help you.

First, I’d like to state that with regard to the holidays, I do not follow a religious path. I do celebrate Thanksgiving, recognizing it as a day to sit with my family and be thankful for each other, and use it as a time of remembrance for our ancestors, thanking them for everything they did to get us to where we are. Christmas in my house is celebrated with some traditional rituals, decorating a tree, setting cookies and milk out for Santa Claus, surprising the children with sounds of reindeer approaching, and opening presents. We also have a small bonfire for Yule, with glogg, apple cider, and cakes, and we toast the winter months and speak well wishes out into the night for the upcoming New Year.

So given many of us have careers to manage, writing projects, and families to visit, how are we supposed to take care of all of these responsibilities and manage our mental health during the pandemic?

Say no

First, I want you to know that you can say no. You do not have to do everything. Your holiday celebrations do not have to be spectacular. You can most certainly tone things down. I plan to make a smaller dinner for Thanksgiving, for example.

Follow social distancing guidelines.

I create the best work when I am not under pressure and overwhelmed with a full schedule.

We at home will continue to social distance. This means I will not be sitting down with family for meals. I will however be driving to my parents' and in-laws' homes and will be picking up food that they are cooking for us. I will wear a mask to ensure their safety. For Halloween, I’m also planning on doing a drive through “trick o’ treat” where I will drive up to my parents' house and my in-laws' house and they will give my children wrapped candy.

Some other ideas I am considering for the holidays:

Halloween: I am setting candy outside in a bowl and will refill it throughout the night.

Thanksgiving: I will video call my parents while we have Thanksgiving dinner, so a virtual Thanksgiving dinner.

Christmas: We will decorate Christmas cookies and then call my parents via video call so that my children can share the fun they are having with grandma and grandpa, and then drop off some cookies at my parents' house.

I also plan on sending out a handful of Christmas cards, just to a few close family, and making them special. These will likely include thoughtful notes and pictures of our family.

We will also play Santa Claus ourselves and drop off presents to our close family, leaving wrapped presents for them outside.

New Year: We are going to watch television and have a “balloon drop” at home where it’s really just us blowing up a bunch of balloons and tossing them around and saying Happy New Year before bedtime for our boys. We will call up the grandparents and play some music, and probably do some ridiculous dancing to make them laugh and ring in the New Year.

Many of these activities are as much for my parents as they are for us. I am very well aware that the elderly are experiencing a difficult time right now with isolation. So I am trying to really make my parents feel connected to us by using video calling.

Beyond all of this, I will be saying no to things I am not comfortable participating in, for example, I am not comfortable with any indoor gatherings at this time.

Given these social distancing measures, I am going to take the time I am not getting ready for parties or at gatherings to enjoy allowing myself to slow down. I will sleep in. I will get caught up on my reading. I will enjoy making recipes, and maybe failing at some of them and perfecting others. I am going to take this time to nourish myself, to relax, to think – most importantly think about writing projects I want to work on, really enjoy the process of writing and research for the projects I am currently writing, and finally learn to set boundaries. Setting boundaries varies from person to person, but I am going to really work on devoting more time to thinking and creating. I know I create the best work when I am not under pressure and overwhelmed with a full schedule.

So overall, to take care of myself during this upcoming holiday season I am planning to:

  • Adapt how I normally celebrate the holidays, by both scaling back, doing less and making sure I am calling loved ones via video so they feel connected to my family.
  • Learn to say no, and remain firm, but polite, and give energy to what I feel most comfortable doing.
  • Visit with my work, really visit with my work. Take time with my work and explore my art, my craft, maybe take up journaling, or explore my research or an old project I have been meaning to come back to. Something else I have enjoyed doing during quiet moments is giving myself writing prompts and experimenting with form. Quiet moments are great opportunities for this type of work.
  • Finally, relax. I will take the time I am not traveling or visiting with others and devote it to myself. I will read, make great food, or order food in, watch television, or just sleep.

We are entering a time in our lives that we should allow ourselves to slow down, get comfortable, and find joy in simple things.

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