The month of November ushers in the holiday season- usually a time of intense productivity and togetherness. These things bring stressors and COVID-19 adds layers of emotion to this already stressful period. We are all dealing with some sort of loss as we wrap up the year and it is fitting that the holidays are a culmination of these losses. The holidays provide a sense of structure for many of us. We expect the permanency of Thanksgiving feasts, presents under the tree, and the lighting of the menorah or kinara. COVID-19 has adjusted these innate schemas and we can’t rely on the structure we once did.
Not only are we experiencing a collective turbulence that leads to general change, but we are also experiencing a time of unprecedented isolation. The holidays hinge upon physical connectivity and for most, this pandemic has erased that comfort. It’s only natural to feel grief and sadness when facing this new holiday season alone. A posture of acceptance is crucial to managing these distressing emotions.
November’s major holiday, Thanksgiving, emphasizes acceptance in the form of gratefulness. It is a time where we reflect on things that enrich our lives and change us for the better. Typically, we focus on “positive” things, like our partners or physical objects. However, this year, gratefulness looks different. We can be grateful for negative events that have pushed us to evolve in body, mind, and spirit. This year, as difficult and tragic as it has been, has transformed the global consciousness. Life has been put into perspective for many, and that transition hasn’t come easy. It is out of these incredibly hard moments that positive growth occurs.
Understanding of this growth, however, doesn’t erase the emotions that will undoubtedly engulf us. Emotions don’t fit into the binary of good and bad, but they can cause significant distress. It is now especially important to practice self-soothing skills as we find ourselves isolated and without our usual comforts. Practicing mindfulness can help with acceptance and coping during this change. Mindfulness is a state of being that emphasizes “experiencing reality as it is.” It draws upon themes of detachment, which brings a positive sense of control. Many mindfulness exercises center around guided meditation, where the participant is guided to visualize a setting in their minds. Apps such as “Calm” and “Headspace” offer a variety of such meditations. YouTube also has a plethora of mindfulness practices. If meditation feels like too much, the easiest way to practice mindfulness is to focus on your breathing. That’s it- simply count each breath as you inhale and exhale, and you’ll find yourself more grounded and centered.