Holidays, The Pandemic & You

 ‘Tis the season for Seasonal Affective Disorder! Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, affects more than 3 million Americans each year. It is characterized by feelings of sadness and influenced by the changes in our internal circadian clock with the shortening and darkening of the days (summer SAD also exists, but is less common), and can be related to a deficiency in Vitamin D (self-care tips include going outside and exercising!). Isolation due to COVID restrictions definitely compounds the feelings of loneliness and lethargy characteristic of the feelings many people experience during this time of year.

‘Tis also the season for a number of holidays. The way we celebrated this year was definitely different. Maybe there were no competitive games of dreidel, no loud Thanksgiving table full of cousins, and no hugging grandparents after getting another sweater (no, but really, I love this one so much!). However, the holiday season—and all the feelings that come with it—still came around, regardless of how we celebrated. Instead of hosting our annual Chanukah party for 20+ family members, some of whom we only get to see during holidays, we all lit candles together over Zoom. After a full day of Zoom classes, I don’t want to even look at the app, let alone join yet another meeting. That being said, I am glad we made an effort to celebrate virtually, and I am grateful that Zoom’s now-ubiquitous nature means that even though I have not been in the same room with my grandparents and cousins for almost a year, I’ve been able to see them more times than I typically would have if we only relied on official family gatherings, especially my cousins in Israel.

Though you’ve probably figured out what works for you by now, here are some extra tips for making the most of socially distanced time together!

  • Try cooking something with friends or family over Zoom! There are always special dishes that I associate with specific holidays, and some of them are made by family members I can’t go over to have dinner with now. Send a recipe around beforehand so everyone can prep their ingredients, then chat while you mix and chop! 
  • Many streaming services now have the option to watch a movie with a group, or you can share your screen on Zoom (or just hit play at the same time like in the old days). If you have a favorite holiday movie you watch every year and don’t want to break that tradition, 
  • Play games virtually! Not all games involve a million people and complicated rules (though I do miss those); you can play trivia games (like this), cards, Among Us, Kahoot, Mafia, Pictionary, and many more.
  • Splurge and get presents for yourself! Gift-giving (and getting) is one of my favorite parts about the holidays. This year, most of my Chanukah presents were gift cards, which is still nice, but kind of like I’m just buying myself a present. Of course, you know what you like best, so this may be a silver lining. 
  • Express gratitude! My AP Psychology teacher showed us this video before Thanksgiving, and just the act of expressing gratitude to someone who has impacted you, or even thinking about them, or something you appreciate in your life, can make a huge difference on your emotional well-being. This tip is especially helpful if you can’t really connect with family or friends over the holidays; it can start a conversation, it will 100% make someone’s day, and most of all, it will help you refocus and relax.

If you are struggling with feeling cut off from friends, family, or community, try to find a way to reach out and connect with fellow humans. It can be hard to deal with mental health with or without support, but during these months in particular, no one should have to struggle alone. 

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