The holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years offers for many a time of remembrance for the year, solidarity with our family and friends, and aspirations of a new year as we continue to grow and develop within our abilities and abilities with God. For many with mental illness or mental health problems, the holidays have the opposite effects, reminding them how disjointed they are from loved ones, memories they wish they could forget entirely, and a belief that another year is another failure. And that’s all before COVID hit.
This is not our first conversation about the impact of the holidays, previously talking about how Christians can manage mental health over the holidays, the worries of addiction during the holidays, how to help loved ones with mental illness over the holidays, and, if we weren’t in a pandemic with restrictions looming, ways to find peace and joy over this holiday. Of course, we are in the middle of the pandemic, we urge you to not live in fear, but also be your brother’s protector and not expose those at high-risk to possible exposure of COVID-19.
So how do we handle ourselves this holiday season? We have a few suggestions for you.
Making The Most of the Holidays
We won’t lie, for many, this holiday season will look differently than in the past. Some families, for the first time in decades, may end up canceling Thanksgiving meals or Christmas gift exchanges. But hope does not need to be lost. Nor do you need to water down your holiday experiences. These are a couple of our ideas of what you can do this holiday season.
1. Season Of Hope
If the point of Christmas and Thanksgiving is to sit and watch football together while going into a turkey coma or do a white elephant gift exchange, honestly, you miss the point. Holidays are about time together and we encourage you to keep that at the forefront of your mind and be open-minded about this. Traditions may have to go by the wayside, but this might be a time to refine them too.
A tradition of giving thanks when you get together once a year around a turkey can still happen via Zoom. But why limit yourself. Between Thanksgiving day and Christmas, dedicate once a week or more for everyone to be intentional to get together on Zoom for at least an hour, share moments of thanks, pray for each other, and keep up on everyone’s lives. Take time for the real purpose of the season.
2. Be Reasonable and Humble
Many times, we see holidays the way they are presented in commercials and stores. Lots of lights with glitz and glame. Lots of things that “I want” to put on my Christmas list. Lots of food to eat till you cannot eat anymore. But these is all excess, instead, be reasonable with your time, give room for people and understand that many may be struggling financially, medically, and emotionally. Instead of having big expectations, push for spiritually rich times together. Make room for Scripture to be read together, having each family take time to read parts of the Bible together and letting go of all of the other stuff. Remember that Jesus’ birth was in a manager, not a temple or king’s castle. We must also remain humble in this.
3. Reach Out
This can have many meanings. Maybe it means instead of buying a big meal for your family to get together, instead you buy food to give to the local food bank and write cards during your time together. Maybe it is sitting down in person or over technology with a friend or loved one to honestly take time to listen to their heart as they just started counseling or are unsure how to move forward in their life. Maybe instead of coming up with your own endless list of gift ideas for yourself, you give to the Church, non-profits, or adopt families so that you can give instead of receive. Note the verse we use for Christmas, it says that Jesus was given to us, not that we received Him, may we also do likewise and give freely:
For to us a child is born,Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
4. Stay Healthy
Yes, we encourage social distancing, washing hands, wear masks when necessary and appropriate. But also, turn off the news because it doesn’t need to always be running. Go for a piece of the pie, but stop at one and don’t overindulge. Have a family walk together if the weather and physical health permissions. Socialize as much as needed and do not hesitate to check in on those you love and care for. Rest, take a nap, go to bed on time, and do not over commit on activities or errands.
5. Grieve If Needed
It is no surprise that a counselor would suggest you explore your feelings, fully feel them instead of running away from them, and grieve the things that are not the same. But this goes beyond someone who may have died, this includes the loss of comfort and traditions, of jobs and budgets, or of relationships due to disagreements. Find comfort in the God who knows and opens His arms to you. Seek wisdom in the one who knows the future. And be faithful in what He calls you to do.
We don’t know all the challenges that are on their way with this different holiday season, but if you have ideas, we’d love for you to share them with others in the comments below.