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Thankfulness and Gratefulness in Difficult Times

For many of us, the holidays are the best time of the year – it’s a time of togetherness, gratitude, and joy.  But not everyone looks forward to the festive season, as many people struggle with the focus on the holidays that can lead to stress and depression.  The holidays can be difficult for a number of different reasons – be it cooking meals, shopping, cleaning and entertaining – it is a lot for anyone to handle.

This Thanksgiving season in particular, looks quite different than previous years now that we are living in the age of Covid-19.  Cooking and entertaining for groups of people may be causing you to feel additional stress and anxiety as you worry about the health of those you hold close.  In addition, quarantines and travel restrictions have the potential to interrupt your usual traditions, which can make your holiday plans look radically different that you are used to.  Not having our family and friends close to us can be very difficult.

When we are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, it can be incredibly hard to take a step back and try to regroup and work through those experiences.  Many of us have a tendency to navigate stress in a reactive manner, in that we deal with it as it arises.  Unfortunately, this can be difficult to do appropriately and can make it hard to work through the challenging times in ways that are supportive to our needs.  Instead, we are looking to help you be more proactive in how you work through the anxiety and stress, so that it can be more preventable, and at worse, make any stressful situations more manageable and keep the holidays from taking an emotional toll on you this year.

Working through holiday stress:

  1. First and foremost, it is important for you to be aware that you are not alone in how you feel this Thanksgiving. Nearly all of us have been experiencing some degree of worry and anxiety with the way things are, and it is healthy to acknowledge your feelings and know that everything you are experiencing is okay.
  2. If you are feeling lonely or isolated, especially if you’ve been working from home, if quarantines have restricted your ability to move around, reach out to others. If you are struggling during the holiday, it can be beneficial to connect with a friend or family member about your concerns.  Reach out with a phone call, a zoom chat, or try to connect in a socially distanced manner.
  3. Many of us want the holidays to be perfect, but being realistic about how things are can be very beneficial. This year can be an opportunity to establish new traditions, or to try out new experiences, and see how they impact us.  Finding new ways to celebrate together can have an enormous impact on our positive well-being, even if it’s something as simple as connecting via a virtual chat and sharing pictures and stories with one another.
  4. Planning ahead can be a wonderful way to alleviate the stress that often accrues during the holidays. Set aside specific days for shopping and cooking your meals, and how you connect with friends and family.
  5. One of the best parts of the holiday season is having the opportunity to indulge in our favorite foods and activities, but don’t forget your healthy habits. As many of us experience, indulging can often lead to more stress and guilt after-the-fact.  Get plenty of rest, include regular physical activity in your day, participate in deep-breathing exercises or things like meditation and yoga, keep to a minimum how much news and social media you watch or partake in, and try to have a healthy snack before meals so you don’t go overboard.
  6. Take some time for yourself. You don’t need to spend every moment with your friends and family.  Find something for yourself that helps you to clear your mind and reduce stress, be it by taking the dog for a walk around the block, listening to music, or simply having some alone time when you need it.

Be Grateful:

The coronavirus has impacted us in a great number of ways, and when we are living in a time of uncertainty and concern, it can be beneficial to reflect on the things we have to be grateful for to help keep us grounded.  Gratefulness can nurture clarity, it can open us up to love and care, and it can connect us with the people and world around us.  It is not a solution to the problems we face in our lives, but it can help us to feel connection and well-being, which can have a positive impact on reducing the stress we are currently dealing with.

  1. Notice all of the ways in which people are caring for others around the world – be it adjusting habits and routines, those who are quarantining, working in hospitals, and being supportive of those around us.
  2. Despite the distances we are often forced to keep from one another, think of all the ways in which we can still connect – be it by phone, email, or zoom calls. There are countless ways in which we can bridge the gap and show our love and concern for one another.
  3. Be compassionate to those around you. Be more patient, more thoughtful and considerate, take a second before responding to things, offer smiles and laughter, and support those who are most impacted like local businesses who offer services we need.
  4. Be aware of all the blessings that still remain in your life.
  5. Stay connected to the things that help you to remain calm and connected, and that help you to have faith and hope in difficult times.

There is no question that we are dealing with difficult times.  But if we can find ways to be proactive in how we navigate the stress and anxiety of the holidays, and also work to be grateful for the beauty we still have in our lives, we will all have more than enough to be thankful for this year.


Michael C. M. Johnson, LMCH-t, is a School Based Therapist with Tanager Place.

Copyrighted (2020)

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