How to Have Happy (“Covid-Free”) Holidays! 

Whether you choose to celebrate during the holiday season or not, it can be a stressful time of year for various reasons. To further complicate the logistics of celebratory planning, the pandemic serves as an extra layer of angst to navigate. For some of you, this is a welcome inconvenience, especially if it allows an escape from never welcome dysfunction. But for others, it’s one more memorable gathering that you’re mourning the cancellation of.

A universal truth on which most of us can agree is that pandemic fatigue is real. Despite this fact, crisis always has a way of unifying, strengthening, and making us more resourceful. So let’s talk about five ways to find meaning in the madness:

  1. Define where you end and they begin – This is a fancy way of saying decide what your boundaries will be. What are your negotiables? Have you thought about your non-negotiables? Social media highlight reels have shown us so many of our friends and family casually transitioning the outdoor activities of summer indoors – masked, half-masked for usies, or just unmasked. And while we shouldn’t live in fear, being alarmists, it’s wise to decide how we need to be smart and safe as individuals. The best plan is one made prior to situations you may encounter. Even as adults, we’re not immune to peer pressure.

  2. Let go and let in – Traditions bind us together and typically make quality time sweeter. However, this year the ball is in our court to figure out what goes and what stays. Certain people, places, and things will unfortunately be part of what goes. New practices and ways of adjusting our connections will be what stays. Although we’re also “video-fatigued,” this mode of communication has allowed for us to continue living as close to normal as possible. What can you do to make virtual “gatherings” more fun? Who can you escape your circle to find support with? Are there games and activities that you’ve never considered but would love to try? Actively searching for alternatives to just watching one another do what you would do in person could be the key to learning and appreciating so much more about the people you love.

  3. Extend some extra love – Human contact is so fundamental to our emotional and physical well-being. But since we’re not able to do a lot of that right now, it’s a great opportunity to be innovative in touching the hearts of others. Who do you need to thank? How many people have been there for you? How can you offer your undivided time? Grief, loss, and trauma have dominated much of the last eight months. How can you help to be a salve for someone who is hurting? Your kindness and generosity could be an indelible mark on someone’s soul.

  4. Make your own spirits bright – How often do we find ourselves exhausted and broke by January 1st?  Traditionally, we spend November and December so hyper-focused on others that we forget ourselves and end up depleted. What do you need? Do you know what makes you happy? How can you give yourself just that? Consider focusing on what you CAN control, what’s available with the resources that you have, making space, and creating joy for the person who matters most – YOU. A positive reframe can be a useful tool in the next few weeks. It requires intention.

  5. Delay gratification in a more gratifying way  – Short-term pleasure leads to long-term pain. And even if that pain isn’t detrimental to you, it could very well be to someone else. Instead of living for the moment, and being a science denier, ask yourself what sitting still for a little longer could net you. What would you do with the money you’d save? How can you benefit from the extra time you wouldn’t normally have? The best things in life aren’t things. What’s priceless to you that’s feasible in the bubble we’re living? Have you created a post-Covid bucket list? Some risks are simply not worth lasting pain.

Being flexible and adaptable is not always the most exciting task. But being able to look back on 2020, a year from now while breathing and living more freely, may find you feeling grateful for the sacrifices you chose to make. Events may be postponed, but that’s only a temporary thing. The beauty in allowing yourself to make the uncomfortable shift now is that your actions will yield permanent and enduring lessons that will keep on giving throughout many more seasons of life to come.

About the Author

Dr. Barbara Ford Shabazz Dr. Barbara Ford Shabazz is currently the Psychology Program Director at South University, author of Intentional Balance, and the owner of Intentional Activities. For over 20 years, she has served students, clients, and the larger community as an instructor, advisor, speaker, consultant, therapist, and coach. Her clinical training commenced during an undergraduate practicum, where she initiated a collaborative partnership among the community elementary school teachers, parents, students, and university practicum enrollees. She has worked primarily in the Hampton Roads Virginia area with the community services board, various high schools, therapeutic foster care agencies, a pediatric medical practice, and a non-profit organization. Dr. Shabazz had the opportunity to hone her expertise in the mental health field through participating in her doctoral internship with Kern County Mental Health and practicing as a Resident in Psychology with a local psychotherapy practice, which provides services to a broad spectrum of clients. Close relationships with community organizations have helped to inform this educator's roles and responsibilities in academia. Dr. Shabazz not only facilitated a myriad of psychology courses for her alma mater's undergraduate and graduate programs, participated in student advising, and created a student-led colloquium series for the senior citizen neighbors, but she also had the honor of being recognized as favorite faculty. Additional classroom experience has offered invaluable lessons for practical application. Her position as an online professor helped to ensure competence with current trends and best practices in the field. More recently, Dr. Barbara has been drawn to the study of positive psychology, which was the impetus for seeking certification with the Coaching and Positive Psychology Institute. As a practicing certified personal and executive coach, her goal with Intentional Activities is to tap into the inherent strengths of each client, equipping them with the tools necessary to live a more action-oriented and authentic life. Dr. Shabazz earned her B.A. in psychology from Norfolk State University. She subsequently attended Regent University where she completed the requirements for her M.A. in Community and School Counseling , and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. She is in a unique position to effect change from the classroom to the community, as she adeptly bridges theory and practice in her work with diverse populations. BARBARA FORD SHABAZZ PSY.D. , CPEC CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST, CERTIFIED PERSONAL AND EXECUTIVE COACH 757.305.7656 [email protected] www.intentionalactivities.com

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