Many people find the holiday season to be challenging, even in normal circumstances. Of course, these aren’t normal circumstances; everyone knows that 2020 has been a difficult year to say the least. However, knowing that it’s been a difficult year and knowing how to process and respond to the things that have taken place are two very different things.
As we navigate the challenges that come with restricted social contact, self-isolation, and the constant discussion of anxiety-provoking subjects in the media, coping strategies can be valuable tools to help navigate overwhelming feelings or circumstances.
Depending on where you’re spending the holidays, this period of time that students normally look forward to as a break from their studies might not feel like the break that it is supposed to be. Some students will be staying on campus in residence for the holidays; others may be studying at King’s remotely, and not have had the opportunity to take in the campus atmosphere. No matter where you are, the introduction of online classes has resulted in many people feeling as though they are “always at work.” Distinguishing between when we are “on” and when we are “off” becomes difficult when we’re forced to spend all of our time in the same place.
How do we respond to this when we aren’t being given a choice? Sometimes even small things can help. Taking some intentional time away from thinking about or working on school is an important place to start. Consider taking a break from the internet and screens too, and try to identify something that feels nourishing and refreshing. Have something that helps you mark the time and the space that’s just for you: light a candle or turn on some string lights; put on some clothes or accessories that feel special; play music or sounds that help you connect with a different mood or “headspace” from work. Covering up or rearranging your workspace is also a valuable way to affirm that you are now “out of office.”
Many people struggle with the feeling that they always “should” be doing something. If you find yourself stuck in a procrastination spiral around something that feels important to do (dishes, laundry, a paper, reading) give your brain a break from this feeling and listen to the fact that you just can’t do it right now. Take an hour or two—perhaps that’s the length of your favorite album, or movie—or take an afternoon or a day, and then check back in with yourself to see if it feels like something you can now tackle.
You might be alone, and/or living in an area where restrictions and social distancing mean that getting together with friends or family is not possible for the moment. If you can, find ways to reach out and spend time with people you care about, and who care about you in return. A few ideas about how to approach this include making dinner with someone while on a video call, writing a letter or postcard to someone who lives far away (or even someone who lives close by!), or going for a walk while on the phone and describing the surrounding environment to the person you’re speaking with. Isolation demands a lot of creativity: while that can be draining, it can also show us the worlds and the care that are possible.
Some people may be spending the winter break with family—either because they have returned home for the holidays, or while continuing to live in the same place where they attended classes online all semester. Living with and visiting family can be challenging if they do not know, value, or respect your sexuality, gender, pronouns, or name. The choice of how to respond to this will look different for everyone depending on available supports, safety, and capacity. If you are looking to “come out” to your family, or have a starting conversation about this, there are resources like this bisexuality disclosure kit that can help you think through priorities, boundaries, and how to start that conversation. Though the kit is designed specifically for bisexuality it can be a great resource for many people, as it contains prompting questions for sharing other identities and sexualities. Coming out is a personal choice that has many considerations and contexts. If it doesn’t feel like the right thing to do, the right time, or a safe option that is OK. You do not need to come out to anyone in order for your identity to be real or valid.
If you are going to be surrounded by people at home that do not know or respect who you are, it is possible to carve out other spaces that can be safe, reassuring, and validating. Consider contacting a friend or two who might be happy to support you through this time, and start a message chain where you can share something with them just for validation. When you share something with this message chain people will have an idea of what you are looking for and how to respond. I will also be available for support over the holidays and would be happy to connect for this kind of support.
If scrolling through social media is how you spend some of your time, then being intentional about the content you see can be important. One way to do this is to create a feed that reflects who you are and that provides comfort and validation. It is so easy to get caught up in the artifice of social media and to be affected by how we “should” be looking, acting, or spending our time. The feed that feels best for you will depend on your needs and interests, but here are some suggestions for places to start that you can find on Instagram:
Aubrey Gordon, Your Fat Friend
The Youth Project (Nova Scotia)
The holidays can be a difficult time for a lot of reasons. Be kind to yourself and reach out to someone you trust if you’re struggling. To contact me, send an email to Jordan.email@example.com or text or call me at 902-229-6123.
Banner image by Mae Chevrette