COVID-19 (coronavirus) Featured

COVID-19: Making meaningful holiday memories, even while apart

A family chats with other people on video.
Written by Jennifer Palisoc

Traditional holiday get-togethers have never looked so different than during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the past year, instead of large groups gathering for celebrations, people around the world have found creative ways of connecting virtually with friends and family while maintaining physical distancing to help stop the spread of the virus and end the pandemic.

“Holidays and celebrations help to maintain and strengthen ties, share practice of beliefs and rituals, serve as a way to keep up relationships, as well as affirm our sense of belonging with our group, community, culture, or society,” says Dr. Carolyn Boulos, psychiatrist at Sunnybrook.

While meeting online or talking on the phone is not the same as meeting in person, keeping the connection going is extremely beneficial.

“Hearing a friendly voice or seeing loved ones virtually, can re-establish connection, laughter, memories, and generate warm feelings,” says Dr. Boulos. “Regular communication, sharing our difficulties and happy events, as well as tears and laughter, can maintain close relationships despite the physical distance.”

Dr. Boulos adds that loneliness can lead to stress, greater morbidity, mortality, and worsen immunity, so staying in touch with family and friends online and on the phone can make a difference to an individual’s health in more ways than one.

“Connection and feeling understood by others, are powerful ingredients for our mental health.  Oxytocin is a hormone that may release during social interactions and helps to lower our stress levels with positive effects on our mental health,” explains Dr. Boulos.

“It has been shown that laughter can have anti-inflammatory effects, which can boost immunity. Connection with loved ones may alleviate the negative effects of quarantine fatigue on our enthusiasm, and creativity,” she adds.

To help these virtual conversations run smoothly, a very important part of staying connected online is making sure that everyone participating knows how to use the social media platform or app that the group will be using. If possible, having a dial-in option, a way for someone to join the call by telephone, is a great alternative.

There are many ways to celebrate holidays together while at a distance. We can still make meaningful memories with loved ones while keeping one another safe.

Get crafty

Gather friends and family online to create decorations or other holiday-themed treasures. Plan what you’re making in advance, make sure it is a craft that works for the ages and skill levels in your group, pick up your materials and have them ready for the big crafting day!

Host your own online family cooking show

Consider learning how to make a traditional holiday family recipe online. Designate a chef for the event, share the recipe so everyone can shop for all the ingredients and cooking tools ahead of time, log onto your computers, and share in a new virtual family tradition in the kitchen!

Host a virtual talent show

This may be a good opportunity to let individual talents take centre stage. The virtual talent show can include reading a holiday poem, sharing stories, handmade pictures, singing traditional songs, dances and more. Your loved ones may surprise you with incredible hidden talents!

Share a holiday meal together online

Food is often an important part of the holiday season. Consider safely dropping off a holiday meal to someone who is unable to make their meal or who will be alone at home for the holiday. Selecting a social media platform for family and friends to join at a specific time can help make holiday feasts a lot more festive despite the distance. Connecting online and on the phone can help us feel close during these special times of the year.

Be present

Staying in the moment while celebrating with others online can help make your time together much more enjoyable. It can be easy to multi-task and have additional screens open or other devices close by that may distract you from the virtual holiday gathering. Focusing on the conversation happening online and being present can help reinforce your connection with loved ones and help enhance the spirit of the holiday season.

About the author

Jennifer Palisoc

Jennifer Palisoc is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

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