November is usually one of my favorite months. I’ve always been a homebody, and with Thanksgiving around the corner, I knew extra days at home were soon ahead. As a student, I knew deadlines were approaching. As much as final projects and essays were stressful, I always got excited for that time. Why? Because the payoff came when you left the building or campus at 2:47pm the Friday before Thanksgiving with a little less weight on your shoulders, knowing that projects were taken care of and you could take a break from academics guilt-free to spend time with family and friends.
This year will look a lot different for many of us. Educators may feel as if they don’t have enough time for a break between planning for a second semester of hybrid/remote learning in an academic year unlike any other. Relatives from far away may not be able to make it to the dinner table this year due to travel restrictions and gathering limits. November 26th is going to be a Thanksgiving unlike any other, and a lot of us are wondering, how can we enjoy the Holidays this year without feeling overwhelmed by what’s going on around us?
- Accept the Circumstances Around Us
Accepting that this year will be different is the first step in rethinking the holiday season this year. Something we should avoid this holiday season is the trend of toxic positivity. This has been a hot topic for educators, especially in the wake of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. What is toxic positivity? According to the Psychology Group of Fort Lauderdale, toxic positivity is the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. The process of toxic positivity results in the denial, minimization, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience. Most people don’t realize they are practicing toxic positivity; they are merely trying to put a positive spin on things, but this doesn’t always help. Saying “oh well, this could be worse!” can invalidate people’s feelings and make them feel as if they aren’t allowed to be upset about the circumstances around them, even though the circumstances of this year have been extraordinarily tough.
- Embrace Change
The next step after grappling and acknowledging your own emotions regarding the holidays is to embrace the change. What is something that you’ve always wanted to do at Thanksgiving that you’ve never gotten around to trying? Maybe you’ve always wanted to do a Turkey Trot, but never ended up signing up. Try a virtual race this year and start a new tradition in an untraditional year! Maybe your family always wanted a game night instead of Black Friday shopping. This year, pick some games out to play and come up with fun prizes for family members to win. By introducing new habits on Thanksgiving this year, you shift the feeling of loss & nostalgia from traditional Thanksgiving traditions to excitement on a new activity.
- Give Thanks
The last step to changing your outlook to a positive one toward Thanksgiving this year is to focus back to the root of the holiday, giving thanks for what has happened in the year. This is harder than it seems. For me, I look back to the extra months with my family that I didn’t expect to have, and am thankful for that. I think about free time that I didn’t have throughout my past 16 years of my education, and am thankful for the opportunity to understand that free time is valuable to mental health, and that slowing down brings rest and restoration to the mind to help promote new ideas of creation.
What does giving thanks look like for you? Reflection is a great opportunity to discover things you didn’t know, and can help us all shift our mindset more positively.
Katie Algrim – Director of Innovative Professional Learning