Professor Offers Tips to Safely Enjoy the Holiday Season

A headshot of Kristen Carr, associate professor of communication studies at TCU. The COVID-19 pandemic will likely alter many Americans’ plans for the holidays this year, causing some people to remain isolated when they are used to being together with friends and family. Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise celebrating with individuals in one’s household and avoid gathering in large groups. Therefore, many people may be rethinking their traditions, foregoing some and creating new ones. Kristen Carr, associate professor of communication studies in the Bob Schieffer College of Communication, studies communication, coping and resilience. She offers three tips to safely enjoy the holiday season in the midst of a global pandemic:

Create normalcy where you can. Nothing about the second half of 2020 has been typical, and as a result, many of us are experiencing a great deal of uncertainty. We know that in times of stress and upheaval, we should try to craft our own normalcy whenever possible. Think about the things that are important to you and those you care about, and consider how to creatively reimagine them in our current circumstances. How can you reinvent most traditions so they can still continue? For example, many family traditions are tied to food, so you might create a family cookbook with recipes people are used to enjoying around the holidays and share electronically. Can a secret gift exchange still happen by mail? Thinking of creative ways to continue long-standing traditions creates a sense of normalcy that many people crave during stress.

Provide invisible support. When people are struggling, even the act of seeking support from others can feel like a burden. Pay close attention to those who might be having a hard time and provide “invisible” support to them. Don’t ask “What can I do?”; just choose something (anything!) and do it. Leave a small gift on their front porch, send a handwritten note, drop off their favorite snack and a hot cup of coffee. What’s key here is that the person does not need to expend any energy to receive your support. Doing so helps people feel connected, even while being physically distant.

Focus on helping others. Research on generativity points to the importance of helping others, especially when we feel helpless or uncertain. Often, providing assistance to others facilitates a generative response which reminds us of our own blessings. Helping others while experiencing stress ourselves can help us recalibrate how “bad” things are for us and provides evidence of our own successful coping. Consider making or sending cards to residents of local nursing homes, volunteering at a community garden, making donations to a food pantry, or providing supplies to local shelters. You might drop off bottled water to your local police or fire station, or even just place a dollar in the toy section at the dollar store and make a child’s day. Choose activities that have some personal meaning to you and your family, and most importantly, enjoy them!