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Coping over the holidays

Giving Thanks for Thanksgiving 2020

My Zumba instructor showed up to our online class tonight sporting a great t-shirt that read “Always Be Thankful.”

She bought it at a big-box-retailer and its short and poignant message is the perfect pre-Thanksgiving reminder, especially this year when COVID-19 is now wreaking havoc with our normal Thanksgiving traditions.

We can’t – as the hymn tells us – “Gather together.” Travel restrictions and quarantine rules mean we can’t – as another ditty says – go “over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house.”

There’s no Turkey Trott this year: America’s longest-running footrace won’t kickstart every runner’s Thanksgiving morning. Even the beloved Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is a re-do on the usual cadre of marching bands, floats, and those mammoth inflatables.

Sadly, so many of us have lost friends or family to this seemingly unstoppable illness; no number of diversions can make up for that loss.

Consider this: 30% of respondents in an American Psychological Association survey stated that the holidays caused their stress levels to increase.

Add COVID isolation, loneliness at being cut off from extended friends and family, and the generalized anxiety of what blows COVID will level next, and, well, it paints a grim picture.

So how can we be thankful this year?

Just as we did last spring, when COVID shut us out of school, work, and most social activities, we need to re-conceptualize how to make Thanksgiving hold meaning. Here are some ideas:

Simplify your Thanksgiving meal.

Make it delicious and homey, if you’d rather make a one-pot soup or casserole, do it. This isn’t the year to be a food snob. Be grateful for the ingredients in your pantry and your own ingenuity.

Fire up your laptop or drag out those old craft supplies.

Make cards and send them to friends or drop them off at a skilled nursing facility! Heartfelt and meaningful or just dopey and fun, getting a real card makes people happy. And crafting has its own rewards when it comes to expressing yourself and connecting with your creative juices. Just ask Sandy Pufpaff or Katrina Norris who regularly share crafting projects on Spectrum Health’s Community of Caring. Be thankful for your sense of whimsy and your thoughtfulness.

Make it a self-care day and be thankful for yourself and your well-being.

Play peaceful music. Take a walk in a park or quiet neighborhood. Maybe call an old friend for a chat. Give yourself a day off and do things that nurture yourself. Self-care isn’t selfish; it’s an investment in your well-being.

If you haven’t already, start a Gratitude Journal. Journaling has many rewards and keeping a gratitude journal is a daily reminder that even when times are most scary, there’s something in our world for which we are grateful.

2020 hasn’t made it an easy year to be thankful but when we dig deep, we can find those glimmers of hope for what’s good in our lives. If you need help, we’re here for you, too. Spectrum Health is your hope for the holidays.

By Cherie Messore
Senior Manager of Public Relations
Spectrum Health and Human Services

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