If this pandemic has made us appreciate anything, it is the importance of the people around us. Family, friends, workmates, the people in our local café, the mums and dads and grandparents in our parent group, even the people we say hello to when walking the dog. They are all important and form part of our broader network of relationships.
As is the nature of these things, sometimes it’s only when we lose something for a period of time that we truly appreciate its value.
Another lesson we’ve learned this year is that humans are infinitely creative and innovative beings. When challenges hit, we adapt. In the past months, most of us have had to jump through new (and often spinning) hoops, pivot like dancers, learn new skills and find capacities and inner strengths we didn’t even know we had.
This holiday period is likely to be anything but typical and while the new ‘COVID-normal’ looks slightly different for everyone, our connections and relationships with others remain fundamentally important.
So how can we combine our recently-enhanced appreciation for those around us with our newly-minted ‘rona’ skills and insights, to stay connected with the people we care about this holiday season?
Technology (yes, I know—you are over having 2-D relationships!)
As we have all discovered this year, technology can be a great way to connect when you can’t get together in person. While we may be feeling a bit jaded when it comes to connecting through screens, it can still be worth thinking about ways we can make virtual catch-ups fun, meaningful and even a bit silly.
- In our house, we re-watch Harry Potter every year and there are always a few cheesy Christmas movies in the mix too. While Harry Potter may not be your thing, you can always watch a Christmas movie or your favourite series with the people you love on Skype or ZOOM. Crack open your favourite beverage, fill a bowl with popcorn, lollies or any variety of chocolate covered things (they are all good) and lose yourselves in the story.
- A few weeks ago I heard about a group of friends who organised a virtual pool cocktail party. Everyone set up a toddler’s swimming pool in their back yard (this was in Victoria, Australia, where we had a period of strict lockdowns…and we are heading into summer), dressed up in holiday costumes and had a virtual party, complete with mermaid dancing and party games. They had a blast.
- Food is a big part of the festive season for many people and cooking together is often the most enjoyable part of the process. Having everyone gathered around the kitchen, sharing stories and memories while the veggies get chopped, the cookies get cut and mouth-watering aromas waft from the oven, is an age-old way of coming together. Cooking is a highly tactile experience and engages all the senses. Bringing a group of family or friends together to prepare a virtual meal is a wonderful way to connect as the tactile and sensory nature of cooking makes the experience feel more real and shared, even if you are apart.
Low tech and low stress ways to connect
As columnist Angela Mollard says in her beautifully reflective piece on how she is approaching this Christmas, ‘So many of us are going into this festive season a little beaten. Others are deeply broken. We don’t have the usual bandwidth on our emotions or the capacity to absorb the hurts and tensions.’
What we need, she suggests, is to take the pressure off, lower our expectation of ourselves and others, and identify what is really important to us.
One way to do this is to think about the simple and meaningful ways you can connect with the people you care about, including people who may be really struggling this year.
- Give someone you haven’t spoken to in a while a call.
- Make a (virtual or real) photo album of shared memories and treasured moments and give it to someone you care about. Reminisce, share stories, laugh, cry.
- If you can (given your local restrictions), make your own cards or holiday treats and drop them in to neighbours or community members who may be isolated.
- Gratitude can be a really powerful mood lifter.
- Think about all the people you are grateful for in your life. Instead of giving them a generic card or gift this year, tell them what you value about them.
It is also worth taking the time to reflect on some of the simple gifts that have come from this year. What have you learned about yourself and the people you care about? What has this experience taught you about what is really important to you? How can you embed some of those insights into your life going forward? Share these insights with the important people in your life.
Living with isolation and separation this year has probably deepened your understanding and empathy for people in your community who experience long-term socially-isolation. If you have the opportunity, reach out to someone this holiday period who may not have friends and family around. What’s one simple thing you could do to help them feel more connected?
Have you got any creative suggestions about how to connect with others this year? We would love to hear about them in the comments below.
Written by Sue King-Smith
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