The pandemic can help us prioritize what really matters during this stressful season.
I’m not putting up the Christmas decorations this year and it’s not because the children won’t be home to celebrate…although the idea did originate with a few full-blown sessions of bawling about their absence. Leaving the ornaments under the staircase is a choice borne of practicality and necessity.
A year that started with our family dog’s loss is ending with more chaos, sickness and death than is comprehensible with all we’ve experienced in 2020. So the idea of dragging out boxes of well-loved Christmas decorations and disguising reality with glitter trimmed ornaments, red sweater stockings and pearl garland seems like an effort in futility.
Twinkling lights won’t change anything.
Christmas isn’t about pine trees, stockings or peppermint sticks. There’s the religious meaning behind the holiday, but it’s more than that. This time of year has always been about family, getting together and gratefulness for what we have.
If you’re reading this, you have a lot to be grateful for. So do I.
We’ve lost a heartbreaking number of souls throughout the world this year. It’s devastating to think about, yet the lessons we can take from this tragedy can serve as guidance for a well-lived life any time of year. And being well enough to learn something out of this mess is deserving of gratitude.
We cannot afford to take our mental health for granted. We’ve seen the devastation that can come when left unchecked, from increases in anxiety and depression to alcohol abuse and suicide. In October, Japan reported more suicide deaths in one month than all their COVID-19 deaths for the year.
And the majority were women.
Let that sink in. Mental health issues disproportionately impact women and the financial toll the pandemic is taking on them is of particular concern. Since March, we’ve seen women leave the workforce in droves with significant economic and emotional consequences that could take years to repair.
Being proactive about our mental health
Waiting until we’re in a crisis to pay attention to our mental health is like waking up in the middle of a North Dakota blizzard and driving home on a two-lane highway. The odds of staying in one piece are slim.
No matter where we’re at on the depression scales, little things can make a big difference, (i.e. getting enough sleep, moving our bodies, drinking water and eating healthy foods). Set-up a virtual visit with your doctor and stay in touch with friends.
Meaningful connections make us stronger
Even when we can’t be together in person, there are so many ways we can remain connected. Texting, while the most straightforward method, is also the least effective at establishing and maintaining a genuine connection. The tone in someone’s voice, the expression on their face, and the emotions you feel reading the words your loved one puts on paper will connect you more deeply than any emoji ever will.
Pick up the phone, schedule a regular video chat, send handwritten notes. Everyone involved will reap the rewards that come from these meaningful connections, especially when you can’t be together in person.
With apologies to The Rolling Stones, time is not on our side. The truth is we never know how much of it we have, and that lesson has been driven home for all of us this year.
Make every moment count
Don’t wait to tell someone you love them, don’t put off big decisions until you can do it right and don’t fool yourself into believing there’s always tomorrow. Drink the champagne, eat sandwiches off Grandma’s china, and don’t cancel your wedding just because you can’t have the big reception. Embrace each moment you have.
Regret is a wicked disease for which there is no cure.
Decide what matters most in your life and make those the moments that count. Right now. Being with the ones I love matters most to me, so this year we’ll create Christmas memories and deepen our connections over video chats.
And while some of you may consider me a Grinch for not putting up the Christmas decorations this year, I have zero regrets about my decision. Come December 26, the holiday will be over, and I won’t be stressed-out, wondering when to take down the tree.
Instead, I’ll be eating left-over turkey sandwiches off the good china, enjoying a glass or two of champagne. And maybe, just maybe, by New Year’s Eve, I won’t be so exhausted anymore.
This article first appeared in Entrepreneur.