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Preparing For the Holidays During COVID-19

For many people, the holiday season will look different this year. Often, the last few months of the year are busy with parties and visiting family and friends. But due to COVID-19, things like traveling and gathering in large groups may not be possible.

Many people have lost loved ones and will be missing someone’s presence during the festivities, and even more have lost their jobs and are dealing with financial stress. Others, like healthcare workers, may be working overtime and unable to take as much time off around the holidays as they usually can. It can be hard to cope with these kinds of changes, especially if certain holidays are the only time you see some of your loved ones. 

If you live with a mental health condition, you may have an especially difficult time with the uncertainty and the change of plans this year. Many people with mental health conditions find consistency important in their recovery, especially during times of high stress – like both the pandemic and the holiday season. A sudden shift in tradition may have you feeling an extreme loss of control on top of disappointment.

Change is difficult for most people, especially when you didn’t ask for or even expect these changes. But that doesn’t mean that the holidays are destined to be a disappointment this year. There are plenty of ways to cope with the tough feelings you’re having while still enjoying the holidays: 

Identify How You’re Feeling. 

Figuring out your emotions about the upcoming holidays can make things feel less overwhelming. Most people are feeling a lot of different ways at once right now, which is hard for our brains to process and understand. This year has been a difficult year for many reasons. That means that some of your distress is likely related to things other than the holidays. It is completely normal for you to be feeling a bit more emotional than usual right now. Take some time to sort through your emotions in whatever way is most productive for you – you can journal, talk to a friend, or just spend some quiet time alone thinking. Once you have a better idea of the specific feelings you’re experiencing, you can start making plans to cope with them.

Acknowledge What You’ve Lost.

While the holidays are mainly about thankfulness and celebration, this can also be a really hard time of year, even during normal circumstances. If you’re missing a loved one, think of ways to honor them during your festivities. If you’ve lost a job or had to drop out of school, take the time to recognize the challenges that came with that. Even if you haven’t lost anything concrete, we’ve all lost our sense of normalcy this year – it’s okay to grieve that during this time.

Make The Most Of It. 

There’s no denying that things will be different this year, but holidays don’t need to be canceled. There will be some things that you can’t do right now, but there are surely some that you can. You can still send sweets to your friends and family, make your favorite holiday meal, light the menorah, decorate gingerbread houses, and break out confetti poppers for New Year’s Eve.

For the things you can’t do – brainstorm how to adapt them for COVID times. If you’re disappointed about holiday parties being cancelled, come up with virtual games to play over Zoom instead. Start a new tradition with your household. Feeling lonely because you won’t get to see your extended family? Round up your cousins to video chat while preparing a dinner. 

Don’t Romanticize Your Typical Holiday Plans. 

Remember that while your holiday season may normally be full of excitement and joy, it can also be a time of high stress. Long days of travel, endless to-do lists, and dinners with that one family member you don’t get along with are all part of the holidays too. Even though you may be giving up some of your favorite things about the holidays this year, you’re probably leaving some stressors behind too. You don’t need to be happy about this – sometimes the chaos is part of the fun! – but be careful not to distort the situation and make it seem worse than it really is. 

Practice Gratitude. 

Gratitude is a major focus this time of year, and while it may seem harder to find things to appreciate, there is still plenty to be thankful for. Make a conscious effort to regularly identify some things that you’re grateful for. It can be something as broad as your health, or something as specific as your favorite song playing on the radio the last time you got in the car. Change is hard, but it isn’t always bad. There are still ways to celebrate the season with your loved ones, even if you must give up some of your favorite traditions. Find creative ways to adapt. Or start new traditions – they may even add more meaning to your holiday season.

If you’re still finding yourself sad, hopeless, or unable to enjoy the holidays this year, you may be struggling with a mental health condition. Please feel free to call us to discuss options.

Coping With Seasonal Depression During COVID

With the end of daylight saving time, daylight arrives earlier in the morning while darkness falls earlier in the day. For many people, this stretch of shortened days, extended nights and colder weather triggers a condition called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. Combined with all the uncertainty connected to employment and the COVID-19 pandemic, SAD season could be more difficult than usual this year.

Except for its seasonal pattern, the symptoms of SAD are similar to those of clinical depression: pervasive sadness, undue fatigue, difficulty concentrating, excessive sleep, lost interest in normally enjoyed activities, and cravings for starches and sweets and its attendant weight gain.

About 6% of the US population is diagnosed with SAD, and of that, women are diagnosis four times more often than men. Younger adults have a higher risk than older adults and those with existing depression may experience more problems during the winter season. This year we are expecting even more people to experience symptoms.

The anxiety and stress provoked by the pandemic will increase the risk and severity of seasonal depression for everyone, especially with restrictions limiting what we can do to stay well, even if we normally have good coping resources.

So what are some practical things to do this winter to help seasonal depression?

  • See a professional – book an appointment with a therapist or psychiatrist
  • Get some sunlight – a morning or midday walk gives you the benefit of both daylight and exercise
  • Finding joy in the little things around you – for example, take notice of the beautiful birds on your daily walk)
  • Taking classes online – follow tutorials on youtube for free or sign up for local classes
  • Online social groups – sign up for the WCGL Social Group here
  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule – regulating your body rhythms helps manage SAD symptoms
  • Stay connected with people – call one family member or friend every week
  • Exercise regularly – any type of exercise will work!
  • Structure in daily activities – establish and maintain structure by doing things in a set pattern every day

A number of therapies, medications, and behavioral modifications can be used to effectively manage SAD symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, keep in mind that the symptoms of other mental health conditions may be nearly identical to those of SAD. Always visit a health care provider for a proper diagnosis.

8 Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving Virtually

With coronavirus numbers on the rise across the state and country, your family may be preparing for a different Thanksgiving this year – no trip to grandma’s house, no overflowing dinners with extended family and friends.

If you’ll be celebrating virtually with loved ones who aren’t in your quarantine group, here’s how can you make it special.

Before

  1. Plan a shared experience. No matter the distance, you’ll feel close on the big day if you share the same rituals. Have a few family member come up with ideas for all five senses, and spread the word to everyone on the virtual guest list: For example, plan to light the same scent of candle or prepare the same fragrant dish, and create a shared playlist to use as background music.
  2. Create connection with meal prep. Thanksgiving meal may be the hardest time for you to be apart from family members who aren’t in your quarantine group, like grandparents. So focus on the steps that come before eating, which are easier to bond over from a distance: Schedule calls for family members to help you brainstorm the holiday menu and make a shopping list. Ask for a loved one’s favorite recipe, and video chat while you test it out.
  3. Send Thanksgiving care packages. Mail or drop off treats and supplies to help guests feel part of the fun. Since you can’t crowd around one table to split a pumpkin pie, maybe you can bake pumpkin muffins and drop them off on doorsteps, or make matching centerpieces for everyone to display on their holiday tables.

During

  1. During your Thanksgiving video chat, have members host “opening” and “closing ceremonies.” Children might want to kick things off with a song or prayer, and wrap up with a round of jokes or the latest Tik Tok dance. With old traditions on hold, the possibilities are endless.
  2. Try a new twist on a pot luck. Since you’ll all be dining as separate households, a traditional pot luck is out the window. But you can still ask every person to “bring” something to contribute – like a brief toast or favorite family photo to share virtually.
  3. Try a gratitude bowl. Have all the households in your extended family start this process before Thanksgiving. Each day, each person writes something they’re grateful for on a slip of paper and adds it to their household bowl. During your Thanksgiving virtual event, take turns reading aloud.

After

  1. Keep the fun going! Once your Thanksgiving Day “program” has ended, you can prop your device up somewhere central with video chat for any loved ones who want to stay connected, or send occasional text updates on the day’s events – from the big turkey reveal to lounging in comfy clothes while you digest.
  2. Make Thanksgiving resolutions. This can be part of your virtual get-together, or just a quiet conversation with members of your household to close out the day. What would you like to learn, try, or do more of by Thanksgiving next year? This is a nice way to remind us that we all have a lot to look forward to on the other side of this pandemic.

It’s hard on everyone to skip favorite holiday traditions. But as with so much else during the time of coronavirus, we can try new, quarantine-friendly ideas to fill in for what we’ll miss. It may even add new meaning to your holiday.

Don’t Forget to Vote!

Do some research, pick up your favorite black pen, scribble in those bubbles and turn in that ballot—Election Day is November 3rd, and now more than ever, it’s crucial to amplify your voice and get your vote in.

Most are aware that the big seat that’s up for grabs next Tuesday is that of the president, but there are many more that you’re able to vote for that can make a significant difference. State and federal representative seats, a senate seat, state supreme court seats, country commissioner seats and more are all up for the taking. There are also new proposals as well. All of this being said, voting can feel overwhelming for those who are still deciding who they are voting for, or want to know more about the candidates in general. However, there are amazing resources out there that give you a comprehensive, unbiased look at each candidate, like Ballotpedia, that can help you make an informed decision.

Already voted? Great! As a citizen of the United States, you have done a major part in fulfilling your duties as a citizen. If you haven’t voted yet, that’s okay too. The most important part is to have a plan, and we’ve highlighted some important parts in solidifying yours.

The first step is making sure you’re registered to vote. You can check if you are here, and if you’re not yet, it’s not too late! Though the deadline has passed to register online, you can register in person at your city clerk’s office up until 8 p.m. on Election Day

If you are already registered to vote, it’s important to decide whether you plan on going to your designated polling site on Election Day (between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.) or if you plan on voting by mail. The former is a bit more straightforward, but the latter is still very doable, secure, and safe!

You can request your absentee ballot online here. It’s important to know that the request must be received by your city clerk no later than 5 p.m. the Friday before Election Day, so make sure to do this as soon as possible. Once your request is received, you should get your absentee ballot in the mail fairly quickly. After you fill it out, you can mail it back to your city clerk’s office, or drop it off at your ballot drop box location (this way is probably more efficient, as there have been severe USPS delays). 

At the end of the day on November 3rd, all that matters is that you got your vote in. Vote for those who are disenfranchised. Vote for immigrants. Vote for everyone who can’t vote, for whatever reason that may be. Many things are at stake, from the quality of our lives to the empathy of our government. What we vote for now affects the futures of our children, parents, friends, and both selfishly and importantly— ourselves.

— Autumn Miller, Undergraduate Intern

Caring for Your Mental and Physical Well-Being as the Weather Gets Colder

As we approach mid October, the weather here in Michigan is starting to get colder as the days go on. Brisk breezes fill the air and dark skies start rolling in earlier.

While this all sounds cozy in theory (it’s a great excuse to wrap up in a blanket all day), the ushering in of the late fall and winter months often takes a toll on the mental and physical well-being of many people. The whole situation becomes even more isolating than in normal years when you factor COVID-19 into this. That being said, it’s especially important now more than ever to take care of your health, and there are many ways to show the snow and crunchy leaves who’s the real boss. 


Find a therapist

Therapy is essential to an overall healthy self. Whether it be the need to work through past trauma, learn healthy coping mechanisms to help combat your anxiety, or just talk through the way you’re feeling, therapy is a great tool to keep your mental health in check. It’s more accessible than ever now, being that online therapy sessions are on the rise (which means you can essentially do this one from your bed). If money is tight right now, check out the “counseling” tab on our website! Other therapists offer therapy on a sliding-scale basis, making it affordable as well. You can find some of the best online therapy programs here.

You can also join our weekly Social Group by signing up here.


Explore that hobby you’ve been wanting to try

Have you always wanted to learn how to play the guitar? Dying to try calligraphy? Wanting to create the most aesthetically-pleasing bullet journal? The colder months are the perfect time to dive head-first into all of the hobbies you’ve been putting aside. Being highly encouraged to stay at home and stay indoors, it can be easy to let your mind wander to darker places. Hobbies are a great way to put your focus and energy into something productive and positive while also giving you a fantastic opportunity to find something new that you enjoy. If you’re unsure where to start, there are thousands of tutorial videos on YouTube that can guide you, depending on what you want to try. This is your sign to go ahead and bake that decorated focaccia you’ve had your eyes on since the beginning of quarantine!


Take the time to call your loved ones

Whether it be your best friend from college or your grandma who lives on the other side of the country, setting aside time to catch up with someone you care about can do wonders for your mental health. Simply hearing the voice of someone you love can send waves of oxytocin, the “love hormone,” through your body, giving you a jolt of comfort. Additionally, being social (at a distance, of course) can give you a sense of normalcy, too, which is always appreciated in tumultuous times like these.


Find a form of movement you truly enjoy

Truly healthy movement is one that promotes self-love, body positivity, and kindness— you don’t need to work up a sweat to reap in the endorphins that exercise gives you! Explore the kinds of movement that intrigue you and feel good on that particular day. Maybe taking a nature walk while listening to your favorite podcast sounds nice, or maybe a morning YouTube yoga-flow session in your bedroom will do the trick. Being in touch with how your muscles move and learning what your body enjoys doing can be a great way to clear the head and work out some pent-up tension.


REST

In a world that always seems to be going, going, going, taking the time to rest is crucial for your overall health. Rest can mean different things for different people— for you, maybe that means not setting an alarm on Sunday morning, and for others, that may mean plopping down on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and your favorite television show. Productivity is important, but it’s not everything— burnout is very real, and setting aside time to simply exist and be can give you the recharge you didn’t know you needed. 

— Autumn Miller, Undergraduate Intern

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