The holidays may look a little different this year, as a result of safety guidelines and suggestions put in place to prevent COVID-19 transmission. In fact, as the epidemic worsens, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends limiting family gatherings, as they can contribute to a rise in coronavirus cases. You may not get to see your loved ones this year during the holidays—understand that you are not alone and that is completely okay.
It is normal to feel “homesick” this holiday season as you stay home instead of attending a social gathering with friends and family. But that doesn’t mean you have to have a terrible time. You will not only stay safe and avoid passing on the virus to others, but also get an opportunity to celebrate ongoing traditions in a new way. You may feel a little blue at first, but you can definitely make your spirits bright and spread the holiday cheer from the comfort of your own home. Here are five expert-approved ways to cope with feeling homesick over the holidays:
Accept how you are feeling
Even if you used to complain about the flights, the food, or having to sleep on the couch, in the midst of social isolation, you may feel a greater appreciation for gathering with friends and family. “Our traditions are, to some extent, the rituals that connect us to our larger lives. We look forward to these events as ways of stepping outside our day-to-day, and so when we’re denied this opportunity, we suddenly feel how badly we want it,” says Dr. Steve Joordens, a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto.
Understand your feelings are valid and give yourself some space to radically accept those emotions. Radical acceptance, a skill used in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), allows you to acknowledge the circumstance even though you may not like it. If you bottle up your feelings, you may experience greater pain and sadness throughout the course of the holiday season. Dr. Regine Muradian, a clinical psychologist, suggests saying or journaling something along the lines of this to yourself: “We are still in the midst of COVID-19 and the numbers have been increasing. Although I would love to be with my family and I feel sad being separated, I am distancing myself to protect them. I hope to enjoy with them next year.”
Find new ways to connect with loved ones
You may not be able to visit your loved ones in person, but there are still plenty of ways to spend the holiday with them virtually. You can organize a group video call with family members during your Thanksgiving celebration to eat and rejoice together. Or start a holiday show via video where each family member has to showcase one of their talents or “talents.” This will surely gather a lot of giggles among the crew—make sure you record the video to keep track of the special memories. “The key here is to be creative while connecting,” says Dr. Muradian.
Connecting with others is also crucial to improve feelings of social isolation. “We must not socially distance, we must physically distance. Our deep social connections are our go-to way of managing stress, the most natural response we have,” explains Dr. Joordens. If you have a small, strict pod, schedule regular interactions with them during the season. This could mean going on a long drive to see holiday decorations in your local neighborhood or watching a holiday movie together on television. There are tons of activities you can conduct online and safely in person with most of your family and friends just being a call away!
Bring the familiarity of home into your place
Some traditions have lasted generations, with families spending the holidays together every year at the same place. If you visit a place annually during the holidays—like a family member’s house or a cabin in the woods—but are not going this year because of COVID-19, find ways to bring elements of that “home” into your residence. Try incorporating the sights, sounds, and smells of your holiday “home” into your traditions this year.