- If you’re disappointed that you won’t have the holiday you imagined, there are things you can do to feel better.
- Most of us have lost our sense of normalcy this year, and it’s okay to feel a little sad during the holidays.
- Setting a new habit and keeping a routine can give your days structure and help you feel in control.
As creatures of habit, we look forward to seasonal traditions such as Christmas parties with friends, lighting the menorah candles with family during Hanukah, or exchanging Kwanza presents with loved ones. Due to the pandemic, our traditions and celebrations may look very different this year.
Experts say one way to cope during stressful times is to establish new routines, so you’ll have things you can count on in the midst of uncertainty.
If, like me, you’re longing for the familiarity of old routines at the holidays, find one or two new things you can control. Here are five ideas to consider, with some new habits you can try to incorporate into your regular routine. Test them out and find what works for you.
1. Set a regular time for connecting with loved ones
Holidays can be a hard time of year, especially if you’re missing a loved one across the miles. Take a moment to recognize the challenges you’ve been facing and know that you are not alone. Then, think about how to add some conversations and social interaction into your weekly routine. Stay connected with a phone call, email, or video chat. Remember that your family and friends are also likely feeling somewhat isolated this holiday season.
2. Celebrate at mealtime
Some of our most cherished holiday traditions involve food. This year, we may resign ourselves to skipping on some of these traditions. Don’t deprive yourself of all your treasured rituals. Consider making one family favorite dish for yourself and tell your family and friends it was in their honor and you thought of them as you prepared and enjoyed it.
3. Take care to eat right
It’s always a good habit to eat a regular balanced diet including fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein. Consider a new habit of experimenting with one new food or recipe a week this holiday season—perhaps using a new herb or spice to add more flavor to your meal. Remember to drink fluids regularly to avoid dehydration and go easy on sugar, fat, and salt, which may zap your energy and impact your mood.
4. Begin an exercise habit
Physical activity is linked to greater happiness. This is a great time to set a regular exercise routine for yourself that you can do throughout the holidays. It can be as simple as a 30-minute brisk walk outside around your neighborhood or morning stretches to feel energized before you get out of bed. The important thing is to consider this as a habit—something you do each day to help you through these uncertain times and nourish your body and spirit.
5. Practice mindfulness
If you’re disappointed that you won’t have the holidays you imagined, redirect your focus to something in your control. Mindfulness can help you manage stress and reduce your blood pressure, sleep better, feel more balanced, and even lower disease risk. When you’re feeling frazzled, start with deep, purposeful breathing, quiet sitting, or focusing on something such as an image, phrase, or sound. You can also practice mindfulness with movement, such as taking a brisk walk with awareness and consciously noticing the things around you. Listen for sounds and take a fresh look at objects along your way.
As you consider new habits this holiday season, you may even find one you love to carry into the New Year. Start simple and don’t try to adopt a lot of new habits all at once. Be consistent and give it three or four weeks to become automatic. If trying new habits does not make you feel better, and your anxiety persists, consider getting help from support groups or a medical professional through a telehealth visit.