Julie Galloway, LPC-RPT
Just What I Always Wanted
"It's just what I always wanted" was a phrase my family used during holiday gift giving. My mother began this tradition when I was a young child as a way of teaching gratitude to my brother and me. What began as a simple, yet meaningful tradition eventually changed into a response of sarcasm as we endured years of gag gifts. However as a result of those silly experiences, my childhood memories are filled with those predictable, yet fun moments with my extended family.
What do traditions and holidays have in common?
Part of the allure of the holidays are the traditions that we celebrate with our family and friends. There seems to be something comforting for the human soul that craves and needs predictability. How many times have you heard, "But it's what we always do?"
We enjoy the rituals and continuity of traditions because they provide comfort and strength based on the simple fact that we have made it through another year. It is a perfect time to stop and reflect on how much growth and change we have made within ourselves, our community, and even our world. Family traditions around holidays are one way we provide love, security, and reconnection with family and friends.
In Cajun country, these traditions often include special dishes and desserts. This is a time when most family members are encouraged to share a favorite dish and one that we look forward to splurging on.
These same traditions can also provoke negative experiences and feelings that compromise our celebrations. The loss of a family member or a friend is often felt deeply during the holiday season...Then came 2020. Restrictions have certainly changed every single household, not only in America, but around the world.
What has Covid-19 done to our holiday traditions?
Even if we nor our families aren't overly traditional, we need to recognize and try to accept that during this time of uncertainty, Covid-19 cannot change the basic values and meaning of the holidays. However, it is essential for our safety and the safety of others that we evolve emotionally and physically, especially during this pandemic.
The desire to go back to the way things were prior to Covid-19 will undoubtedly be on every parent and child's list for Santa. The thought of not being able to see our loved ones and friends can cause us to plunge into depression and can even create extra stress to the already stressed out adult and child.
So how do we handle Covid-19 this holiday season?...with flexibility.
Flexibility and letting go of the "known"
This concept can be very healthy and liberating...just think about it. As time passes it is inevitable that we change in some way. Embracing the change with the ultimate goal of providing a new opportunity for gratitude, generosity, and remembering to be kind to others, especially ourselves, will be a healthy life shift.
This outlook might just be about encouraging one another and sharing our own individual ideas and beliefs about the holidays. Flexibility can be opening yourself up to the idea that new does not diminish the holiday spirit, meaning, or it memorability. When instilling this in our children and even our most vulnerable populations, a sense of tradition can be carried out regardless of the obstacles faced.
What can you do?
Let's start talking about alternate plans and creative ways of safely adjusting our traditions to make them possible to enjoy.
Consider giving each person a role or responsibly that will contribute toward the celebration.
Prioritize normalcy keeping old traditions that are safe to enjoy a top priority.
Find a way to include older family members in a safe and responsible manner.
Understand and listen to the concerns of others...without judgement.
Be alert to the risk and comfort levels of each person, reducing individual and group stress.
Involve some type of outdoor activity.
Make something a contest.
Don't discount Zooming or FaceTime.
Homemade fun is always a good idea with simple crafting, baking and cooking.
Decorate, decorate, decorate!
How can we reduce the negative impact during the holidays?
Introducing sensory elements like lights, colors, sounds, and smells, tends to boost our mental health and mood. When we introduce new things into our environment, our senses become stimulated. These senses directly affect our entire physiological system which ultimately makes us feel good -- and feeling good decreases stress and anxiety levels.
For real...no joke! Research indicates that twinkle lights and bright colors DO bring you joy.
This holiday season can be the best year for all of us if we are willing to flex, communicate, and explore new traditions. You never know, lessons learned from 2020 might just make us say..."It's just what we always wanted."