With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Philadelphia and across the country, many people are changing their Thanksgiving plans. A holiday that may have been spent with family and friends, for many this year, is a thing of the past. This year many people are choosing to stay safer home. Mental health professionals said this new “normal” can take a toll on a person’s mental health.

“I think for pre-COVID days, patients were a lot more concerned with the hustle and bustle of the holidays,” said Chimère G. Holmes, owner of Be Ye Renewed Counseling. “Now I find that because of COVID-19, people are just feeling bluer and pretty much discouraged at the fact that they’re not able to congregate under the same roof with their loved ones and spend the holidays together like before.”

She said just because things look different, that doesn’t mean that Thanksgiving has to totally canceled.

“We’re all less than thrilled with what’s going on around the world and with this virus, and how it’s kind of stunting the holiday season, but I think just acceptance is a huge component. The holidays are modified this year and it may feel peculiar but that doesn’t mean that we can’t have a nice celebration, even if it looks different in terms of not having face-to-face contact,” Holmes said.

The therapist said the key to surviving these pandemic holidays is reflection.

“Try to cultivate gratitude. I think that’s huge, being able to count your blessings. Think of three to five things that you’re grateful for. Thinking of things that remain intact and haven’t gone astray since COVID can definitely enlighten one’s mindset and put things in better perspective,” Holmes said.

Psychotherapist Tyra Gardner said now is the perfect time to embrace self-care, especially if this is your first time spending the holidays alone.

“If you’re doing things by yourself, try doing a lot more self-care during this time, as opposed to focusing on the issues that are currently happening. We definitely have to maintain our mental health as best as we can right now,” she said.

Gardner said having a person you can reach out to when things start to feel overwhelming can make a world of difference.

“Do things to take your mind off of what’s going on. Maybe that means talking on the phone to a friend. Find someone that is a calm person to talk to because everybody should have at least one safe person that they can go to. You want to find someone that you can rely on and talk to about some of the things that they have experienced, whether it is a friend or a religious figure,” she said.

Gardner said these are uncharted waters and suggested navigating them the best you can.

“When you look at the issues that we had in 2019 versus what we’re going through in 2020, it’s really amazing. Last year you were running from people. Now this year it’s like, OK, I need to be with the people that I’ve been running from for the past 10 years,” she said.

The psychotherapist said she hopes that people will learn from the difficulties of the past year.

“In 2020, all of our ‘normal’ holiday issues are now placed on the back burner because of this pandemic. People can really understand the meaning of these holidays, and hopefully start to begin to let go of trying to be perfect. Hopefully, they’ll get hindsight and understand the true meaning of happy holidays,” Gardner said.

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