2020 has been a history-making year that never seems to be quite done with us. In the year where “doomscrolling” has entered the cultural lexicon, every turn on the news and social media seems to deliver another reason to feel increased stress.
Therapists have been expected to continue showing up for clients, all the while attempting to cope with the same stressors that may have brought clients in for support. Finding one’s stride has proven to be a challenge for many, which makes getting through the next few months a distinct hardship.
Any holiday season can be especially difficult for therapists, in that we’re expected to continue supporting the needs of clients along with increased activity in our personal lives. With 2020 being what it is, our usual ways of coping may need to be adjusted to meet the demands of the unique times we find ourselves in.
How often have you encouraged clients to slow down, take a break, and stop to be mindful in the moment? And how many times have you struggled to do the same yourself? For eight months, the world has been gripped with pandemic precautions and anxieties, to the point of collective fatigue. While the holidays have traditionally been a time of gathering and entertaining, this year’s season may be markedly different in light of rising COVID-19 case numbers and shifting policies around prevention.
There can be grief around missed traditions and gatherings, and it’s also okay to make space to view the holiday season as a time to pause and catch one’s breath. How might you spend the 2020 holiday season differently than past years? What new traditions might bring joy? Or perhaps you’re needing time to make sense of all the year has brought. The key is finding what works for you. If you get energy in reaching out to those you haven’t connected with in some time, make a plan to do so. Maybe it’s a good book and good food. Start thinking early about how to use the holiday time wisely since taking the time to recharge can pay dividends heading in the new year.
To encourage therapists to build and lean on their social supports feels a bit like “preaching to the choir” but it’s also so important it bears repeating. Frequently. Consider asking your peer support network to hold each other accountable when it comes to self-care over the holidays, whether it be through scheduled individual check ins or scheduled socializing. Colleagues can help brainstorm ways to balance client needs with personal time. If you’re a therapist who is on-call for clients, consider trading call coverage with other, trusted therapists so that you can each get time to fully unplug. And if you’re struggling to build a professional community in a pandemic, connect with peers in the SonderMind Community Forum. It’s also important to connect with non-therapist types in your life. Although Zoom calls and Tik Tok dances were novel and fun in the early days, many people are turning to old school means of communication recently. Don’t underestimate the joy in a phone call or a handwritten letter or card.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned as the world has turned more to remote work, is that we can’t communicate with each other enough. This extends to having tough conversations with friends and family on the levels of precautions you’re comfortable with. Having these conversations helps with expectation setting, especially if you’re planning in-person get togethers. This practice can benefit future holiday seasons as well, given the holidays can be rife with negotiations over who is hosting what, where it will happen, gift giving, and so forth. With everyone struggling these days, anticipate that some of these conversations may be tougher than others.
In the earlier phases of the pandemic, once the country had shifted to varying levels of remote work and closures, some people were noting the positive effects of adapting to this brave new world. Some noted that the lack of commute was freeing up more time, while others were glad to have more family time at home. The end of the year is an opportunity to pause and check in with yourself on whether you’ve experienced growth around the challenges in 2020. It’s okay to celebrate the victories that have come with adversity, especially since growth only happens when we get outside of our comfort zone.
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