Planning for Your Winter Break During a Pandemic


November 26th and 27th most of us had time off. How was that time for you? I hope it was good - within pandemic-adjusted terms. If it felt in anyway less satisfying, fulfilling, relaxing...or it just are some things to consider.

We are in a pandemic. This cannot be overstated. Any attempts at relaxing or celebrating are done against the backdrop of a pandemic. We are still having to make daily concessions and considerations about our safety and realities. That takes energy. We have to adjust our expectations of how we should feel and how much energy we should have.

Changes in context and cues help. When we travel for vacation the new setting acts as a “cue” as if to say – “you are on vacation – you now have permission to relax”. Pre-pandemic, most of us went into the office daily, so during time-off the “cue” of being home gave us permission to relax. In 2020 if you are spending everyday working at home or not traveling, you don’t get that helpful “cue” to signal you have a break. We may have to seek out novel places or activities (that are safe) to signal those cues.

Things catch up with you. When I was in graduate school, like clockwork on the first day of any holiday or semester break I would come down with a cold. It was like my body was pushing through and finally it all caught up with me (I am not a doctor so that may not be medically correct). We’ve been exposed to grief, stress and uncertainty at high levels this year. It’s possible that when you finally get downtime, you also get time to emotionally reflect and process.

Taking this all into consideration, let's think ahead to our winter break. Knowing we might lack the cues and energy of previous winter breaks, we can plan ahead for ideas and affirmations to offer ourselves.

I like to get ideas out of my head and on to paper. Reminders are also extremely helpful during times of duress or fatigue. So, I’ve come up with a few categories that I would encourage you to consider before the winter break begins.

This list is not a “to-do” list. I repeat, this list is not a “to-do” list. If there’s a chance during the winter break you'll find yourself feeling bored, lonely, sad, perplexed by the general state of things – then this list can become your go-to when you need an idea for comfort, excitement, or plain distraction. This can also be something to brainstorm with your partner, kids or extended family.

Here are the categories:

  • Things I can do that are comforting
  • Things I can do that are novel
  • Things I can do to be mindful
  • People I can reach out to
  • Affirmations I can turn to

I’m a visual person so I created this graphic to show some examples. I have also listed them in text below.

Things I can do that are comforting.

  • Listen to old/favorite albums
  • Do a crossword
  • Do a puzzle
  • Take a bath
  • Watch an old favorite movie
  • Read
  • Make a homemade face mask
  • Go for a walk

Things I can do that are novel.

  • Buy a food at the grocery store I’ve never eaten before
  • Try a new recipe
  • Order from a restaurant I’ve never been to or try a new cuisine
  • Watch a documentary
  • Read a new non-fiction book
  • Listen to a new podcast
  • Listen to a new album
  • Play a new video game
  • Ride my skateboard (This is novel as I am still learning!)
  • Try a new form of exercise
  • Take pictures on a walk

Things I can do to be mindful.

  • Take five deep breaths.
  • Listen to a short guided meditation (apps like Insight Timer)
  • Think of five things I am grateful for.
  • Identify 5 things using each of my senses (I see the blue mug, I feel the smooth table etc.)
  • Stick to a news curfew (no news-checks after 7 pm)

People I can reach out to.

  • I can't provide specific examples 🙂 but encourage you to think about friends/family you would enjoy reaching out to.

Affirmations I can turn to.

  • Whatever I am feeling right now is valid
  • I am living during a pandemic, old expectations must adapt to this time
  • Is there a type of grief or loss behind this strong emotion I am feeling?

Take sometime to think through your ideas. You can post them on your refrigerator or somewhere else easily accessible.



About Author

Katie Seavey Pegoraro

Sr Associate Work Life Program Manager

Katie Seavey Pegoraro supports employees with issues of stress and balance, providing tools and resources to cope when life feels overwhelming. Katie is a contact for those who may be coping with issues of mental health, substance use, or grief and loss. A young professional herself, Katie is a unique support to employees who are navigating the many life transitions that occur in your 20's and 30's.

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