As if this holiday season isn’t hard enough during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be residing in a state with a mandated quarantine. Perhaps you might be self-quarantining due to travel. Maybe you just received a positive test result and are following the rules by quarantining at home. No matter which scenario, it might be a rough holiday season if you are stuck at home.
Federal officials are imploring people to stay home, avoid travel, and stick to small, in-household gatherings only. It all seems too daunting and lonely. What’s a person to do if they can’t be with treasured loved ones during this magical time of the year?
Your mental health may take a dive, and your spirits may sour. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. There are many imaginative ways to get through the holidays and protect your mental health at the same time.
Families Quarantining at Home
Quarantining with your family? Don’t let the holidays get you down. Keep these inventive ways to protect yours and everyone’s mental health in mind:
- Make and bake family holiday treats. Package them in festive containers to enjoy over the holidays. Enlist your children to help. They love to use cookie-cutters and to decorate the treats.
- Sit down as a family and find favorite movies to watch. Everyone can choose a few they like. Make and serve treats to eat and drink while watching them.
- Set aside time as a family to go on a nature walk, take a hike, walk on a beach, or stroll through the neighborhood. Remember to wear a face mask over your mouth and nose to prevent spreading or exposure to COVID-19. Nature is a known source to raise your mood.
- Got console or computer games at home? Get together and start a family challenge.
- Connect virtually with far-away family and friends. Share recipes, decorating hacks, and meals with each other. Start a new family tradition. Ask each person to think of and write one new tradition on a piece of paper, and put them all in a box or other container, then each day, pick one out.
- Practice gratitude. Write short gratitude notes for each other and share them during dessert.
- Create a new family holiday card using old photos, an online card making website, and music. It can be funny and heartfelt. You can also go through old photos, scan them to the computer, and save the best ones on a thumb drive to mail to each absent family member. Be sure to order the thumb drives online and choose curbside pickup or delivery to be safe.
Quarantine Home Alone
There is only one way to handle the holidays home alone—go forward, says the AARP. The holidays do not have to be a time of loneliness or despair. By making forward movement, you will not feel so alone. Here are some ways to keep your spirits up this year:
Keep it simple. There’s no need to make that large family dinner or even a smaller-sized one. Try something new like ordering a meal from a favorite restaurant or grocery store, and have it delivered. You will also be avoiding the supermarket crowds and possibly heavy traffic. What a blessing that is!
If you miss worshipping with others, check your religious organization for any online worship services. Many churches, temples, and cathedrals have virtual serves this year, during the pandemic.
Start or finish a new project. This can be anything from starting to read a new book, write one, a craft project, home improvement project, and whatever else you’ve been putting off.
If loneliness is getting to you, pick up the phone and call a family member or friend. Social media is another way to stay in touch, as are email, texting, and video calls. Try one or all these methods of communication to reach out to those you care about.
Indulge yourself. Sleep in late. Make a luxurious meal or treat, spoil your pets, binge watch a series on streaming services (sign up for one if you don’t have one), listen to favorite music, and relax. There are no big meals to make and clean up.
How to Avoid Holiday Distress in Quarantine
There is no time better than now to plan how you will avoid distress and despair over the holidays. A little planning can create a feeling of hope. The Mayo Clinic, a widely respected health organization, recommends these ideas for getting through the holidays and protecting your mental health:
Acknowledge your feelings, and don’t feel ashamed to display them. It is perfectly all right to feel sad and cry. It is also OK to feel frustrated that you can’t travel, stir-crazy being home all the time, and angry that the rising COVID-19 positive test results across the country have thwarted your regular holiday plans. (Reuters News reports there are 199,536 new infections reported each day in the United States.)
- Start now to find a way to connect with beloved family and friends. Learn how Facetime, Zoom, or Skype work by asking someone you know who is tech-savvy. Have a few practice meetings. If you are the matriarch of the family, institute a family meetup online.
- If you are quarantining alone, remember your favorite holiday traditions and implement them for yourself.
- Let it flow, let it flow, let it flow (Get it?) Let the holiday season flow in the direction it is headed, and savor each special moment. Count each happy moment, no matter how minor.
Protecting Your Mental Health
It may seem like your mental health is declining as the holidays draw nearer. However, there are positive steps you can take to boost your mood and help you get through the holidays.
- Get some rest. Short naps in the middle of the day can be all it takes to make you feel refreshed. Go to bed at a regular time each night. Create a bedtime routine that can help you fall asleep.
- Plan to have a few small healthy meals every day. Plan, shop online for grocery delivery, and create nutritious snacks and meals. It is also recommended to keep yourself hydrated, especially if your home is heated.
- Go outside and take a brisk walk. Walking improves blood flow and oxygen levels, loosens joints and muscles, and the scenery could put a smile on your face.
- Take a break. Even if you are home alone in quarantine, sometimes you might need to just get away from life and get your perspective back. Meditate, listen to calming music, or sit in a comfortable chair and just enjoy 15 minutes of solitude.
- Drink a full eight-ounce glass of water every hour or so. Add a squirt of lemon, orange, or cranberry juice to it for flavor.
If you find that quarantining during the holidays is causing you to feel depressed or anxious, Serenity at Summit has several ways in which to seek guidance. Our staff of licensed professionals is available to help you find a way to enjoy the holidays without misusing substances.
There is a tendency to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs when you might feel trapped by quarantine. However, self-medicating with substances can create more grief than not using them.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) puts forth these thoughts to keep in mind during the holiday season:
It’s normal for some people to have the “holiday blues.” However, the “holiday blues” are different from mental illness because they are a short-term mental health concern. With that in mind, short-term mental health problems should be taken seriously, as they can lead to clinical anxiety and depression.
Keep an eye on relatives and friends who are living with mental illness. Know which symptoms can escalate and be there for them.
Alcohol is a depressant and should be avoided if you are feeling depressed. It can worsen the symptoms.
Serenity at Summit is here to help you get through the holidays and find new methods of protecting your mental health.