April is here, and for the first time in our lifetimes, we are being asked to avoid the longstanding, entrenched traditions that bring us together during this time. Passover, Good Friday and Ramadan will be some of the major holidays to take place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Already, a number of significant holidays and religious celebrations and observations in March have been cancelled.
“These celebrations with their associated traditions are embedded in our lives, in our communities and culture,” said Julia Payson, Executive Director, Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Vernon & District Branch.
“Having to drastically modify our holiday plans isn’t simply a behavioural shift, it is a cultural adjustment that may be very difficult for some,” she said.
Those with birthdays over the past two weeks have already experienced the effect physical distancing can have on celebrations that we have always taken for granted.
The usual gatherings of religious services, family dinners, and Easter egg hunts will look very different this year, but there are ways to turn these circumstances into positive experiences.
“As we adapt to physical distancing, we are given an opportunity to value what we have, and to create new, meaningful experiences. We can still connect, but in different ways,” said Payson.
Staying in touch with friends and family, whether they live on the other side of town or the other side of the world is important as social connection is a key part of mental health and wellbeing.
There are many ways to maintain our support networks, stay in touch with others and keep up with their lives.
“Most of us have cell phones, laptops, or tablets that make it easier to make plans with others online,” said Payson. “Phone and online contact is the safest way to stay connected at this time.”
CMHA has compiled the following five helpful ideas to stay in touch during the holidays or anytime from your own home:
Send a Package
Do you enjoy gift exchanges like Secret Santa? Why not bring this idea to Easter or any time during the year? A fun activity to stay in touch with friends or family members is to create a group online and have each person send an Easter treat or small gift to another member. This could be an item that is meaningful, a book you enjoy, a small trinket, etc. This allows everyone to be creative! If you have someone specific that you want to connect with this way, why not exchange letters as pen pals? Be sure to practice hygiene and physical safety when sending and receiving packages.
Virtual Dinner/Coffee Date
It can be nice to share a holiday dinner with loved ones or meet a friend for coffee and catch up on what is new in their life. Online Easter, including egg hunts and setting a place for your iPad at the dinner table so you can connect with family and friends. For a coffee date, you can pick a favourite specialty coffee drink to create and then join your family or friends on a video chat to catch up and sip together. Or you can just give a loved one a phone call to ask how they are doing.
Online Gaming Session
There are many ways to connect with friends while doing a fun activity! If you have a headset, try chitchatting with people while playing. There are group games available so try researching what apps and games are available online!
Create a Book Club
There are plenty of fun ways to enjoy a good book. Everyone in your group can share the most recent book they’ve enjoyed and then discuss it in a video chat. If you’re not a fan of books, try a new TV show to chat about. If your group of friends are creative, try writing the first page of a story you create and then pass it to the next person, and see what final product looks like.
Many people have registered for multiple video streaming services (e.g. Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, etc.). It can be nice to have a night in, make a bowl of popcorn and watch a movie with someone! Try using a video chat or calling someone afterwards to talk about what you thought of the movie. Have everyone in the group share their top five favourite movies and try to work your way through the recommendations.
“This is a time where many people need the support of others. Check in with your friends, family members, and neighbours,” said Payson. “We all need to work together to promote a good mental health.”
CMHA Vernon has set up a webpage noting changes to its services along with resources and tips for mental health and wellness at www.cmhavernon.ca/COVID-19-help/.