There’s so much to celebrate during the month of December. Multicultural celebrations of Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa incorporate timeless rituals passed down for generations. The winter solstice marks the shortest day and longest night of the year. And December marks Bodhi Day for Buddhists–the day the Buddha (which means Awakened One) sat under a tree until he rose enlightened. For some, pandemic restrictions have cast a cloud over these sacred and fun celebrations.

We’ve been through a lot this year, most of us quarantined and working from home. We’ve faced ups-and-downs in the economy and the unease of political and racial unrest. Chances are you’ve been so busy dealing with all the changes you’ve had little time to relax and enjoy this special time. It’s important not to let the pandemic steal the true meaning and joy the holidays bring. If we allow joy to be stolen, the season can turn into a sad and scary time. If you’re itching to celebrate the holidays like the good old days, that’s understandable, but that could be a mistake. Here are some tips on how to keep the meaning of the season within the confines of the pandemic restrictions.

Celebrating The Holidays At Home

Do it your way. One of the biggest myths about the holidays is that we have to do things the way we’ve always done them—to excess and in a hurry—throwing us into a frenzied whirlwind on top of an already hectic pandemic schedule. This year could be the time to take advantage and break or downsize old habits. Tradition is part of the holiday season. But just because we’ve always done things a certain way doesn’t mean we can’t adapt it to the new normal. The key is to be creative and not let confined circumstances dwarf our tranquility, happiness or productivity. Celebrate the season in a way that’s meaningful to you without taking unnecessary risks. Have the kind of holiday you want, not the kind merchandisers want you to have. Take the emphasis off grand gestures and indulge yourself in simple acts of pleasure. You don’t have to get caught up in the “There’s only X shopping days ‘til Christmas” syndrome. Retain the real meaning the beliefs have for you and your loved ones, and celebrate the season in a safe and joyous way.

Put yourself at the top of your holiday gift list. Be an angel to yourself and capitalize on the isolation restrictions to be alone and self-reflect. Take time out and immerse yourself in a good book or craft. Don’t risk your health or forfeit your self-care routines. You need them now more than ever. Say no to requests that go against the grain of healthy protection. Keep your exercise regimen or online yoga class going throughout the season. Short walks or Microchiller meditations ( three to five minutes of mindfulness) can help you unwind and clear your head. By taking a few moments to relax each day, the holiday/pandemic stress won’t seem as overwhelming, tasks will be more manageable and you and your loved ones can avoid the holidaze and enjoy the true meaning of the holidays.

Indulge yourself. Turn your bathroom into a spa by placing scented holiday candles around the tub, playing soft seasonal music, and drawing a warm bath with essential oils or rose petals. Dim the lights, slide into the tub, sip your favorite beverage and soak away the pandemic stresses. Once finished, wrap yourself in a cotton, oversized towel. When loved ones have gone to bed, indulge in a moment in front of the holiday decorations. Reflect on what the season means to you. Create a cozy, private spot especially for the holidays where you can relax undisturbed and reflect on the season. Meditate on soothing holiday music, burn scented candles or browse through greeting cards and photos of holidays past.

Know where to draw the line. If you’re feeling pressure from friends or family members to get together, buy more gifts or cook more food, make a conscious effort to slow down. Give yourself “holiday cushions” (extra time) between activities so you’re not constantly rushing, and you can enjoy the festivities without being “hustled and holidazed.” When you’re already maxed out, remind yourself there are limits to how much the pandemic gets to dictate how you celebrate; it’s up to you and your loved ones to choose how you want it to be. Put on your party-hardy attitude, dress-up and plan fun virtual celebrations with family and friends. Consider painting, baking, writing or making holiday gifts that symbolize how you feel about the restrictions as a symbol of your personal power.

Unplug from your usual household and work routines and do something fun and different that lets you de-stress, relax, and recharge your batteries. This takes a change in mindset and a little intention. If you’ve been working remote, keep firm boundaries during your time away even though work could be on your workstation in the next room. Treat that space as if it’s a few miles across town. Establish water-tight psychological boundaries so you’re not constantly reminded of temptations to work (It will only take me an hour to knock out that last project and I have time to do it) or unfinished personal tasks. Then, engage in different activities around the house that you enjoy but never get to do, such as gardening or a special hobby. And if you have a pool, hot tub, trampoline, ping-pong table or other fun activity that you rarely use, now is the time to take advantage of it. Even just soaking in a hot bath or reading a good book can renew your spirits.

Consider a day-cation to a fun place where you’ve been itching to go but haven’t had time such as a day hike, river rafting or a picnic at a local lake or city or state park. Outside activities in less populated areas where the virus diffuses through the air prevents spread and infection rates. Plus, just being outside in nature is itself a form of stress reduction and relaxation. Balance your time between staying active and restorative rest. A walk or jog around the block combined with five minutes of meditation both give you a biochemical boost. Activity raises endorphins. Quieting your mind stimulates the part of your brain that dampens the surges of adrenaline and cortisol accompanying stress.

Celebrating The Holidays At Work

A Monster poll of 1,700 respondents found that most workers (59%) appreciate their company hosting a virtual holiday party, and 47% are fine with an informal virtual party style through video call. The majority were split with what they will miss most from in-person holiday parties, with party food/drinks and spending quality time with their team leading at 35% each, while 1 in 20 workers will miss having the chance to network with executives. If you’re a manager, Jamie Coakley, VP of People at NYC-based IT support firm, Electric has some suggestions on how to adjust to this extraordinary holiday season:

1. We will see less extended time off than we typically see without end of year vacations and trips to see family. It will be important for managers to monitor both planned PTO and call outs to pay attention to potential burnout and attrition as many folks are not planning to travel or have events to look forward to.

2. People who typically travel or see family will likely not have this opportunity. Encourage employees to connect virtually through holiday dinners, gift exchanges, donating time and resources to support others in this time and give back this season. Some examples include Operation Santa, fundraisers or food/clothing drives.

3. Encourage people to rest and recharge despite not having the time away planned or a big holiday party. Dress up for virtual events, re-create the feeling of a holiday atmosphere by giving gifts or awards for hard work.

4. Burnout and de-motivation are a result of not only overworking, but not understanding fully how your work impacts the company. Companies should recap 2020 progress with a run through of goals and talk about 2021 vision to keep people inspired and connected through the holidays.

A Final Word

A recent survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Hatch, asked 2,000 Americans about their sleeping habits over the tumultuous year and how they hope to improve it in the new year. The study revealed that 51% cited this year as their worst year on record for sleep, and six in 10 said they plan to make sleep a top priority. Four in ten say the holidays are usually when they get their worst sleep of the year, so it’s no wonder 32% of those not hosting family this year are relieved. 

If you’re like most people, on top of regular job demands, you probably have unease over the state of the nation and world with all the unexpected events in the first half of the year. By all means, remember the trifecta of self-care: ample sleep, healthy nutrition and regular exercise. Make sure to unplug and take breaks that fit best with your interests and lifestyle. Your body and brain will appreciate the pause and your well-being and productivity will pay you back.


  • Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

    Journalist, psychotherapist, and Author of 40 books.

    Bryan Robinson, Ph.D.

    Bryan Robinson, Ph.D. is a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, psychotherapist in private practice, and award-winning author of two novels and 40 nonfiction books that have been translated into 15 languages. His latest books are CHAINED TO THE DESK IN A HYBRID WORLD: A GUIDE TO WORK-LIFE BALANCE (New York University Press, 2023)#CHILL: TURN OFF YOUR JOB AND TURN ON YOUR LIFE (William Morrow, 2019), DAILY WRITING RESILIENCE: 365 MEDITATIONS & INSPIRATIONS FOR WRITERS (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2018). He is a regular contributor to, Psychology Today, and Thrive Global. He has appeared on 20/20, Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, ABC's World News Tonight, NPR’s Marketplace, NBC Nightly News and he hosted the PBS documentary "Overdoing It: How To Slow Down And Take Care Of Yourself." website: