Since the start of the coronavirus lockdown, you’ve had to come up with creative ways to keep busy.
After the coronavirus cancelled your spring break plans, family gatherings, concerts, and weekend parties, you’ve had to come up with creative ways to keep busy while doing your part to help fight the spread of coronavirus. It probably seemed like an adventure at first—almost like an unscheduled vacation.
But after finishing Tiger King (and 10 other Netflix series), mastering 1,000-piece puzzles, and creating sourdough starters, you’ve likely exhausted the whole book of socially-distanced activities.
According to a survey conducted by the National 4-H Council, seven out of 10 teenagers said they were struggling with their mental health in some way. Over half of teens surveyed said that they have experienced anxiety, while 45 percent reported feeling excessive stress. Six in 10 teenagers say that the pandemic has increased their feelings of loneliness. An alarming 43 percent of teens disclosed that they experienced depression during the lockdown.
If you feel that your mental health has been affected by the pandemic, there are a lot of valid reasons why you might be feeling the way you do. You missed out on final semesters, final sports seasons, and possibly even graduation and prom. You’ve had to cope with lifestyle changes like social distancing, wearing a face mask in public, and not being able to see your friends over the summer. Even among adults, fear about a new disease and its repercussions can cause an overwhelming amount of stress and anxiety.
However, these strange times present a unique opportunity to learn how to cope with stress in a healthy way. By managing the way you react, you’ll learn how to lead a happier, healthier life. Moreover, developing resilience will help make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.
Here are 21 tips for how you can celebrate the holidays during COVID-19.
21 Ways to Cope with the Quarantine Funk
1. Stick to a daily routine.
It can feel impossible to keep a daily routine during the holidays. Try anyway. Every morning, make it a point to shower and get dressed, brush your teeth, and do some light personal grooming. Try putting on some brightly colored clothes. (It is amazing how our dress can impact our mood!)
Balance your daily routine with the following activities:
- Work or skill-building
- Physical exercise
- Eating on a schedule
- Talking to friends and family
Even if you keep a simple morning routine or do the same wind-down sequence before bed, sticking to a pattern can help bring stability to this busy time of year.
2. Be mindful.
It can be easy to let your mind wander to what happened in the past, or to what might happen in the future. Try to stay present. Focus on what’s happening now.
You can practice mindfulness through grounding techniques, like:
- The grounding chair. Sit down in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, and describe all the sensory inputs (touch, hearing, smell, and taste) that you can perceive.
- The 5-4-3-2-1 technique. Name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
- Laying on the floor. Do a quick body scan and notice each part of your body where the floor touches you. Notice that sensation, the pressure, the texture, the temperature. Focus on any vibrations in the house or building.
- Coloring. Coloring is a simple activity that takes attention away from the things that are stressing you out and into the present moment.
- Cooking. Similarly to coloring, your brain tends to chill out when you have something else to focus on. You can take as many creative risks as you want, and that’s one of its relaxing perks.
3. Give yourself a break.
Be kind to yourself. Not every day will go exactly according to plan! Remind yourself to accept your current situation and roll with the punches. There is no roadmap for dealing with a pandemic, so give yourself a pat on the back for doing the best you can.
If you find yourself slipping into anxious mode, try to find lightness and humor elsewhere in your life: read a book, or watch a cat video on YouTube or a funny holiday movie on Netflix.
4. Keep up healthy habits.
You don’t need to deprive yourself during the holiday season, but make a commitment to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout the fall and winter season. Comfort foods are great, but the connection between your diet and your mental health is real!
Our bodies work best on high-quality food fuel, and our brains need the same nutrient-dense foods to stay alert, boost and regulate mood, and process our thoughts and emotions.
You can set boundaries by working out or filling up on a healthy snack before attending a party.
5. Don’t compare your holiday with others.
You might be tempted to compare your holiday to the photos and videos that you see while scrolling your feed. Resist the urge to think that someone else is having a better holiday than you. Remember: everyone’s holiday traditions are different, and photos usually only represent happy moments.
6. Find some time to move each day.
Go for a walk outdoors. Check out the changing colors of all the trees in your neighborhood, stomp around some freshly raked leaf piles, and smell the crisp air. If you’d rather stay inside, try doing a YouTube workout video. If all else fails, turn on the music and have a dance party!
7. Reach out to others.
Social connection is one of the best mood-boosters out there. Reach out to a friend or family member to seek or provide support. If you miss someone, tell them! A quick text, FaceTime, or WhatsApp message can brighten someone’s day with very little effort on your part.
8. Stay hydrated and eat well.
This one might seem obvious, but stress and eating often don’t mix well. Stress can cause us to eat too much, very little, or not at all. Drink plenty of water and load up on nutritious foods. You can even take it one step further by challenging yourself to cook something new!
9. Be patient with your family members.
Being cooped up can bring out the worst in anyone. Everyone will have moments when they aren’t feeling their best, so it’s important to stay patient while your parents and siblings work through their own versions of the quarantine funk. Don’t engage in petty arguments, and be quick to forgive. Everyone is doing the best they can to make it through the lockdown.
10. Find your happy place.
Space is at a premium, especially when everyone is at home around the clock. Find a place where you can go when you’re stressed. It could be up in the tree in your backyard, the backseat of your parent’s car, or your bedroom closet. You can even bring a few blankets, pillows, or scarves to help make your happy place a little more cozy.
Downtime helps us all recharge and relax. Even when it feels like everyone in the house is on top of each other, we should all have our own place to go and be alone.
11. Expect grumpiness, and practice self-compassion.
We’re all struggling with a disruption in our daily routines. Routines make us feel safe when we know what to expect next, so naturally, a disrupted routine can lead to some grumpiness. This is perfectly okay. Acknowledge your grumpiness, and be compassionate with yourself as you move throughout the day. It’ll disappear before you know it.
12. Notice the good in the world.
There is a lot of scary, negative, and overwhelming information floating around out there. There are also a bunch of stories about people donating, giving, and supporting one another in beautiful ways. When dealing with a disruption of this magnitude, it’s important to balance all the heavy messages with the hopeful messages.
13. Find something you can control, and control the heck out of it.
When you’re feeling uncertain or overwhelmed, take a look around and see what you can control in your corner of the world.
Have you been meaning to clean out your closet? Start your donation pile right now.
Is your bookcase starting to resemble a post-earthquake scene? Organize your books by color, title, or size.
Doing these things will help to anchor and ground us when the big picture looks too chaotic.
14. Get creative.
Find a way to get your creative juices flowing. Check Pinterest for crafting and decorating ideas., or write letters to your future self to capture the memories of this year’s celebration so that you can reflect on them later in life.
15. Tune into virtual ceremonies.
Restore some normalcy in your holiday season by looking for live streamed events. Look for cultural events and music concerts to help re-establish some holiday cheer.
16. Take advantage of technology.
Make plans to connect with your extended family members and friends over FaceTime or Zoom. This is the perfect time for everyone to share their reflections about what the holiday season means to them, and all the special and unique ways you plan to celebrate. Ask others, especially grandparents, to share their family stories that you might’ve never heard. You might be surprised at some of the fun family secrets you uncover!
17. Ask your elders to share their family traditions.
Now that we all have a little extra time on our hands, it’s a good time to ask your aunts, uncles, and grandparents if you can help prepare special dishes for the holidays. Learn your family’s traditional recipes while playing some holiday music to boost the festive feeling.
18. Make meaningful connections.
Humans are wired to connect with each other. It takes some time to develop comfortable, satisfying relationships, but the mental health benefits are worth the effort.
Start by being more curious about your family members and friends. Ask them to share more about how they got to where they are today, and where they hope to go in the future. You’ll probably discover something you never would’ve known otherwise! You’ll gain a deeper emotional connection and valuable insights into the people you’re surrounded by.
When you feel ready, widen your social circle by joining online groups that relate to your interests and hobbies. Being part of a community will help you feel a sense of belonging, while also stimulating your mind with new knowledge, thoughts, and ideas. Try volunteering with others on behalf of a cause you support. We all walk away feeling happier and less lonely when we’ve made a difference in others’ lives.
19. Remind yourself that this is temporary.
It can feel like we’ve been in lockdown forever, and that it’s starting to feel like a permanent change in our lives. Although we’re in scary and difficult times, and there is no projected end date, the lockdown will end. We’ll go back to feeling free, safe, busy, and connected in the coming years.
20. Be psychologically flexible.
Try not to view this holiday season in black and white terms. Just because you can’t do what you used to do at this time of year doesn’t mean you can’t do anything at all. It’s not a complete loss. It’s more helpful to think about how you can adjust your sails to the current conditions. Rise to the challenges of finding new ways to celebrate the holidays.
21. Practice gratitude.
Even though our holidays look different this year, we still have the power to accept our reality and be grateful for what we do have. Focusing on what you don’t have might keep you stuck in a negative emotional state. There are lots of things to celebrate this holiday season. What can you think of?
If you’re experiencing depression, reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or adult. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).