Self-Care and Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, gratitude, – often during this holiday my grandmother and later my mother would go around the room and have each person say what they are “thankful for.” My cousins and I would groan in protest, and I would start thinking of something I could say. But as I got older, I started to appreciate this tradition, the moments of reflection on what I was thankful for in my life.

Each year some of the things I was thankful for would change. But the constant thing was my family: my mother, father, Alex my step-father, grandmother, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and extended family.

This year however it is not recommended we get together for the holiday because the pandemic rages on. This year we need to be safe and find other ways to celebrate by staying safe, for ourselves and those we love. In this article from Marnie Hunter, Is it safe to travel for the holidays this year? she writes, “Health and government officials are increasingly urging people to stay home and avoid nonessential travel. Gatherings are likely safer in areas around the world where infections remain low, although the standard precautions still apply.”

Over the years I haven’t always seen my family for Thanksgiving. Once you’re in a committed relationship, or married you often alternate spending the holidays with your partner’s family. I was looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with my mother this year, since we lost my step-father, her husband last year. But due to the pandemic we mutually agreed it was best she didn’t come here to see us. For the same reason it was best we didn’t travel to see her either. I care about her health and safety, but it’s breaking my heart I’m not going to see her this Thanksgiving.

Medical experts say, if possible, Thanksgiving dinners should be held outside with proper social distancing. There should be no buffets and masks should be worn at all times except when eating. Also, there should be a limit of six people at the gathering.Safety Urged, Travel Discouraged Over Thanksgiving Holiday

The Atlantic article Is There a Safe Way to be Home for the Holidays? by Joe Pinsker he writes about his interview with Andrew Noymer, a public-health professor at UC Irvine, “He expects lots of Americans to go home for the holidays, even if it’d be much safer if they didn’t. The main threat, in his view, isn’t the traveling or the gathering, but rather the combination of the two. “The actual three and a half hours you spend inside the [plane] is not what I worry about … but bringing people together in the [airport] gate area worries me—we’ve all seen people with their noses sticking out above their mask,” he told me. “But even just driving 45 minutes to someone’s house and sitting around the table at Thanksgiving with people who you don’t normally mix with” is worrying too.

Stress and the holidays go hand in hand. The pandemic has heightened the stress especially since we are eight months in and there is no end in sight. Having a routine for self-care can help you cope. Here's some information from Old Colony Elder Services (OCESMA), "Self-care is about understanding your own needs and taking steps to stay physically, mentally and emotionally well. Below are six ways to practice self-care: Eat well, Get enough sleep, Exercise regularly, Engage in a project or activity you enjoy, Meditation, and Health check-ups.

“Coping with the holidays, along with isolation and limited activities during the pandemic itself, not only increases stress, it can also bring about feelings of sadness or loneliness. It’s important to reach out to others such as a caring friend, family member or neighbor. If you’re sad and not feeling like yourself, talk with your healthcare provider or another trusted individual about how you are feeling. There is always someone willing to help at the National Alliance on Mental Illness 1-800-950-NAMI (6264).

When I was doing my research for this blog I came across this article, Practice Self-Care in 5 Minutes or Less During 2020 Covid-19 Holiday Season by Ananda Leeke, she believes physical touch is a basic human need and giving ourselves daily hugs is a way to strengthen our well-being. Ananda writes, “Did you know that when you hug yourself, your body releases the hormone, oxytocin, the “love hormone”? Oxytocin helps reduce stress and tension by lowering cortisol (stress hormone) levels in the body. It also lowers blood pressure, slows the heart rate, and improves moods.