North Texas Daily

Navigating the holiday season during a pandemic

Navigating the holiday season during a pandemic

Navigating the holiday season during a pandemic
December 06
13:00 2020

Like most children, I used to anticipate the holiday season for the gifts I would receive. In my teen years, I craved the holiday season for the long break from school. Now, as an adult, I need the holiday season to keep me grounded. For my family, holiday celebrations consist of mixing with extended family I do not often see. Reconnecting with them reminds me of life’s fragility, burdening me with the harsh reality there will come a day when my grandma is not around to comment on how tall I have gotten.

The pandemic’s one-year anniversary is looming and many states are still experiencing a record-breaking number of COVID-19 deaths. This year has charged every citizen with the responsibility of altering their way of living and the holiday season is the most inconvenient time for conditions to worsen. Regardless, following all of the CDC’s preventative guidelines is more important than ever, with an emphasis on social distancing. Navigating the holiday season in a socially distanced manner has the potential to exacerbate the mental health crisis triggered by the pandemic. 

Fending off loneliness during this holiday season starts with simply accepting the predicament we are all facing. Sit with it and allow yourself to be frustrated because the pandemic is inconvenient, confusing and most importantly, out of your control. This year, approach the holiday season with increased empathy for yourself and the people around you. It is okay to feel discouraged, but avoid wallowing in negative feelings by practicing gratitude, being generous and maintaining a balance between practicing old traditions and employing new ones.

Most people spend the holiday season savoring the camaraderie of participating in meaningful traditions. Grasp onto a sense of normalcy by continuing to engage in these traditions — just alter them to be pandemic-friendly. If you usually host a holiday gathering, you can still decorate your home and celebrate with your roommates, or host a virtual party on Houseparty or Zoom instead. Internet browser plugins give options to host virtual holiday movie watch parties. 

You can boost your holiday spirit by visiting Christmas in the Branch. A 25-minute drive from UNT, the holiday light display show is a quick way to remind you of the childlike wonder you once associated with the holiday season.

Shopping locally and supporting small businesses around Denton is a great way to contribute to something bigger than yourself. The Dime Store offers unique handmade items, while J.T. Clothier’s or Palm Tree Boutique offers clothing, shoes and accessories. The pandemic put a significant strain on small businesses, so shopping local this holiday season is especially significant. 

If virtual parties, holiday light displays and shopping locally do not bring holiday cheer into your life, you can take your mind off the lack of social interaction by practicing gratitude. Take a few minutes to write down three things you are grateful for each day. Intentionally acknowledging the good things in your life despite 2020 being such a tumultuous year can seem futile, but it can have a direct impact on your overall happiness.

Many lifestyle coaches compare the relationship between gratitude and generosity to breathing. Inhale the things you are grateful for and exhale positivity back in your community. People with financial struggles bear the brunt of their misfortune with more prevalence during the holiday season, and the pandemic has only exacerbated financial hardships for many. Recognize there is always something you can do to help out in your community.

There are many opportunities to help around the Denton and DFW area. The pandemic has caused the Denton Community Food Center to suspend volunteering opportunities, but there are multiple ways to do your part. They are always accepting monetary donations through their website and mail. Additionally, you can donate non-perishable food items. It does not take much time or effort, but contributing to something bigger than yourself can remind you what the holiday season is really about.

If you are struggling to find volunteer opportunities, many student organizations are involved with food and toy drives. Reach out to student leaders to see how you can do your part to make sure other families have something to smile about during this holiday season. Taking the focus off yourself and what you cannot control is a powerful way to reclaim your energy and recycle it into something more productive. 

There is something beautifully human about experiencing this difficult holiday season. While you may not be able to celebrate in a traditional manner, take this time to carve out new unique traditions while finding ways to support local businesses and the Denton community.

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

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Rhema Joy Bell

Rhema Joy Bell

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