This year has been challenging, to say the least. I’ve missed out on things I usually look forward to, like visiting my home state and gathering with family and friends—and it’s been hard to come to terms with how different it is to live my life during a pandemic. The holidays especially are usually a time to celebrate, gather, and exchange gifts—but this year, the pandemic has changed all that.
I won’t be flying across the country to be with my family this holiday season, mostly because we have different viewpoints on social distancing and gatherings. I’ve taken the CDC’s precautions quite seriously— and as many in my family don’t take the same precautions, I don’t feel comfortable gathering with them.
However, just because I can’t be with my loved ones doesn’t mean I can’t find meaning and joy in the holidays, even if they’re different from years past. Here are a few of my ideas that might help you do the same:
Focus on gratitude
If there’s anything I’ve learned in 2020, it is how to be grateful for the most basic things that I previously took for granted. Having enough food in my fridge, being able to do my work from home, and getting a peaceful night’s rest are three things I’m particularly thankful for after this year. I’m also really grateful to have my health, especially after getting sick with COVID-19 in April.
One of the best ways for me to focus on gratitude is to make a list of what I’m thankful for once a week. So, that’s one thing I’ll be doing on Christmas day.
Find ways to give back
This year has caused financial hardship for so many of us—and as a freelance creative, I’m no exception. When the pandemic hit, much of my work came to a screeching halt. I’ve been lucky enough to navigate the past few months and still have enough income to get by, but I know a lot of others who are struggling. There are so many opportunities to help those in need.
Of course, making a donation to an organization you care about is a worthy cause, especially a mutual aid fund in a city that’s dealing with racial injustice. Other options are to write thank-you letters to the essential workers in your community. Or to get in touch with a local nonprofit organization and see what items they’re currently in need of—or if there’s a way to donate your time in a safe, socially distanced way.
Create an abbreviated version of traditions
There are certain traditions I enjoy during the holidays that I don’t want to pass up. I love the stuffing on Thanksgiving, so I found a good recipe to make. My family always goes to see a movie on Christmas Day, so I’ll find a movie I can stream that day. Instead of sending tons of gifts during this time, I’ll make donations in honor of each family member — and let them know where their gift went.
Host Zoom gatherings
Even though so many of us are Zoomed out, it’s still a great way to get in touch and see your loved one’s faces. I like to pick a day and time well in advance so people can plan for it. My aunt has even sent me a bottle of wine that I can have on my end (not the whole thing!) while she enjoys a glass of the same on her end. We’ve talked about coordinating ordering the same food or finding a fun game to play virtually. There are ways to make a Zoom gathering an enjoyable experience and still connect with loved ones from the safety of my home.
Take time to unplug
I don’t know about you, but this year has taken a toll on my sleep schedule. I’ve had so many sleepless nights, tossing and turning, worrying about the state of the country and the health of my loved ones. Taking time to rest sounds like a holiday luxury this year—and it’s something I can’t wait to indulge in. For me, putting away my phone is essential to actually resting. I love to take a bath, watch a show, or read a good book. Or I just let myself take a nap to catch up on sleep.
Shift my perspective
I’ve realized that 2020 has been all about perspective. There are so many days when things reeked of doom and gloom—and it was hard to see the silver lining to everything that was going on, from the virus to social unrest to the noise surrounding the election.
I’ve worked really hard to shift my perspective from negativity to looking at everything through the lens of love. By choosing to not go home to protect my own health and the health of my family, this change of holiday plans, although hard, is for the greater good and is actually an act of love. And there’s nothing more I could wish for everyone this year for the holidays than this: good health.