Thriving Through the Holidays
by Robin Thomas
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be stressful and isolating for many people. Yet we know that a healthy social life makes everyday life better. Diet and exercise are important for our health, but how you live your life-including social networks, relationships, kindness, optimism, and volunteerism- is also very important. By reducing stress, we increase feel-good chemicals like oxytocin and serotonin, which support brain health.
What can we do to stay social but safe, have fun, and THRIVE through the holidays and into the new year?
Make time: Set up five minutes each day to reach out to someone you love. It can be a quick phone call, a note, or simply reaching out on a private social media message. Please don’t simply say ‘hello’, especially on social media—that’s creepy. Let them know the reason you reached out. It’s okay if you can’t think of a reason to talk— just explain that all you want to do is say hello, and that you are thinking of them.
Do what you love: This year has become ‘all about Zoom’ Some people love connecting through Zoom or other video platforms, but others are experiencing Zoom fatigue, especially when groups of friends end up talking over each other. Try an activity you all enjoy doing together that can be done as a group online. I know others who enjoy watching movies together, playing classic board games, role-playing games, or even cooking together while online. It’s all about mutual experiences.
Reframe the situation: There is a strong correlation between choosing to be alone and being happy with your alone time. There is no right or wrong way to spend time alone, so it’s good to be open to different possibilities, and have plans for how you spend that alone time. It’s good to have hobbies you enjoy that use your creativity, or to have activities which you can pamper yourself with—a long soak in the tub, a facial treatment, or a nice walk. I know someone who calls friends and then puts the phone in his shirt pocket, camera out, so his friends can also enjoy the walk while they chat.
Acts of service: Helping others can help take the focus off ourselves. I hold a virtual lunch and learn every month with my Living Well Connections group. At each meeting, we raise money for a local food bank. Knowing we are learning together as well as serving others lifts us all up. Other ways to serve others during the pandemic include promoting local businesses, tipping delivery workers well, sharing free resources with neighbors, and even raising a friendly wave to others as you social distance when walking past them.
Research suggests that focusing on what we are grateful for, rather than what we are missing out on, can help us feel less alone. Last month I participated in a 30 Day Gratitude Challenge. All of us participating now have a habit of focusing on what we are grateful for each day. By focusing on gratitude and how we can serve others, it helps us become resilient and grounded both now through the holidays and into the new year 2021.
Robin Thomas worked for 25 years in Medical Research at UNC studying inflammation in chronic and autoimmune diseases. She left UNC to start her own Wellness Business in 2004 and founded Living Well Connections, a community for people whose passion is healthy living, in 2015. You can learn more at https://robinthomas.biz