Making the best of a pandemic holiday season

OCC early childhood major Camille Vandoren takes comfort in the ambiance of her fireplace during the holidays. 

As she sits with her warm tea in hand, her red hair burning brighter than the flames licking the logs in the fireplace, Camille Vandoren reminisces of her holidays at home. Her mantelpiece, decorated with homemade yarn tassels and a Mickey Mouse plush, gives the living room a warm and comforting feeling. Next to the fireplace, a Christmas tree stands glistening with red and gold glass ornaments.

“My sister and I would decorate the tree with ornaments while my mom set up the decorations throughout the house,” she said. “The holidays just felt better when we were all together.”

This year is different as Vandoren, an Orange Coast College early childhood major, gets ready for her second holiday season without her mother. She chose to stay in her California childhood home when her parents moved to Texas for her stepfather’s job. With the current state of COVID-19, traveling for the holidays just isn’t an option. 

“Christmas is my favorite holiday. Spending time with family and friends and seeing the decorations at Disneyland we’re my favorite things to do in winter,” Vandoren said. “Now, it doesn’t really feel like the season’s here.”

Vandoren isn't the only one to experience the struggle of finding ways to celebrate this season. COVID-19 has affected the world in ways that don't allow for classic holiday gatherings. This year, keeping spirits bright could feel like more of a struggle with the pandemic also keeping everyone indoors. The restrictions that COVID-19 has imposed on this year’s holiday season could negatively affect anyone’s mental and physical health.

Although this year will differ from the usual celebrations, there are still some ways to navigate through the holiday season without getting into a Grinchy slump.

Socialize with safety

There are plenty of ways to continue seeing loved ones with just a little creativity. Virtual get-togethers are a fun way to socialize with social distancing. Whether it’s as simple as hosting a movie-watching party or keeping a family tradition, online video chatting has made staying in contact achievable.

Exercise the negativity away

Exercising is a proven way to reduce stress and anxiety, which are two common emotions during the holidays. When it comes to exercising during the pandemic, remember to avoid crowds not nature. Hiking and biking are simple ways of getting a work-out while staying socially distant. “Seasonal depression is almost impossible to prevent at this time of year,” said Kate Bosselman, RN at Children’s Hospital of Orange County. “It’s important to really try and get a daily dose of sunshine and take Vitamin D pills.” 

Sunshine will help fight off those winter blues, but for those who prefer to quarantine, at-home yoga sessions are a fun way of staying active indoors.

Make an effort to give back

With the holidays around the corner, it’s important to give positivity back however possible. Many organizations have opportunities to volunteer virtually for their online events. Donating to local organizations also spreads the season’s much-needed cheer. The Angel Tree Gift Drive at Orange Coast College is going on now through Dec. 18. Donations to this drive will be given to local kids in need.

Practice healthy coping skills

Seeing as the holiday season can be an already stressful time, spreading cheer can be a little difficult, and now add on a global pandemic. It’s important to indulge in healthy ways to overcome that stress. Taking the time to journal or meditate are healthy ways to cope with tense feelings. Picking up a new hobby like embroidering or reading are also great ways to divert negative emotions into positivity. Spreading positivity is easy when the one spreading it has positivity from within.

Slow the spread

With the cold winter season and COVID-19 in full swing, it’s important to wash and sanitize correctly. Whenever entering public spaces, wear a mask to limit the spread of any illness. It’s easy to forget this situation is only temporary. Stay healthy until restrictions are lifted and celebrations can go back to normal.

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