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How to survive the holidays during a pandemic

By Kylie Ruffino
November 24, 2020
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The holidays are a hard time of year for lots of people. We have some tips and resources to help you through this rough year.

It's tough to know exactly how the holidays will impact the spread and effects of COVID-19, but we can certainly agree the season is unfolding differently this 2020. There's a lot to know about what is going on this year and not entirely in ways you expect. This article will take you through all the ways COVID might make the holidays tougher, what to know, and what to do.

In America, loneliness and isolation affect the health of millions across the country. The Census Bureau started the Household Pulse Survey, to capture the impact of COVID-19 on mental and economic health. Even before the pandemic, loneliness links to poorer health conditions for at-risk individuals. Last year alone, 47 million people reported having a mental illness. The added physical, mental, financial, and social burdens of COVID-19 make the stress, worry and isolation of this holiday season particularly tough.


If you are grieving a loss...

There will be many families grieving their first holiday without a loved one this year. It’s essential to recognize emotions will run high. Parents and children tend to want to close themselves off or "be brave," but with normalcy being so hard to come by, this might not help families cope. It is okay to process slowly or intensely as families struggle with unprecedented circumstances and uncertainty. 

Things to consider: Think about having a virtual meeting with all family members involved to see where everyone stands in participating in the holidays this year. Helping to set a level of expectation can give you some footing. Then discuss ways to honor your loved one. How did they usually contribute to the holiday spirit? Can you honor that in some way? It's important to stay connected. Social isolation during the pandemic makes this more challenging to attain but much more important. 

The loss of routine: Even without losing a loved one to the pandemic, doesn't necessarily mean you aren't grieving. Mayo Clinic discusses how the loss of routine can also be upsetting and debilitating. It is important to give yourself space to cope with this type of coronavirus grief. While we have been dealing with this for roughly six months now, the holiday season poses a new wave of emotions. Firsts, no matter what, are difficult. 

What to do: Dr. M. Katherine Shear, founding director of the Center for Complicated Grief at Columbia University, suggests using the tenants of the serenity prayer. Since traditional forms of processing and moving through the death of a loved one, like funeral services or shivas, aren't taking place right now, the prayer helps you accept the things you cannot change. It is important to your wellbeing to ground yourself amid all of this uncertainty. Go back to things that align with your values or make you feel deeply connected to others or the world. 


If you or someone you know is at risk for suicide...

According to JAMA psychology research, suicide rates in the United States have increased over 35% since 1999 and adds to another global health crisis. Unfortunately, data around suicide, due to stigma and lack of national reporting systems, don’t reflect real-time data. There is no way to know the immediate effect of COVID-19 on suicide numbers in the US or anywhere else. However, psychologists are worried about "several risk factors linked to the pandemic." 

COVID-19 Risk Factors: The decline in mental or physical health, social isolation and loneliness already indicate potential for difficulty. Struggling with suicidal ideation can be made worse with financial losses, the disruption of daily life like remote work or school, loss of loved ones or milestones and increased alcohol consumption. In the US, an increase to the availability of drugs or firearms from sheltering in place is also cause for concern. 

What to do: Suicidal thoughts make you or your loved one's health an emergency. Some signs include extreme mood swings from being very sad to very calm, talking about hopelessness or feeling trapped, feeling there aren't any solutions, and talking about dying. If you or a loved one seem off or more isolated than normal, it is essential to reach out. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741). If you are a friend or family member, follow the National Institute of Mental Health's five steps: ask them directly if they are thinking about suicide, keep them safe by reducing their access to harmful means; be there to listen; help them connect to a therapist or a hotline; lastly, stay connected. Research suggests talking about suicide can actually help to reduce it.


If you or someone you know might experience domestic violence...

The stay-at-home orders made to protect the public concerns domestic abuse advocates that victims will be trapped with their abusers. The limited mobility and heightened uncertainty can lead to more triggers and increase abuse. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, domestic violence hotlines expected to see an increase in activity during quarantine, but actually, the calls decreased by nearly fifty percent. This concerns experts even more to know the rates of violence aren't decreasing, but actually, victims are unable to find a safe way to get help. 

Risk factors amid COVID-19: Hotels and shelters long provided alternative and emergent housing, but with closures, safe havens are harder to find. Domestic violence disproportionately affects minority women of color; 1 in 4 women experience intimate partner violence (IPV). Before COVID, unstable childcare, financial hardships, unsafe housing, or lack of social support can increase risk, but now, these are a given. The pandemic seriously limits a victim's financial independence to get out of the situation safely. Many families hold "essential jobs" and don't have childcare capabilities to get their kids connected for school. This added stress can lead to instances of child abuse too.

What to do: Most people don't seek help when suffering from IPV. If you think you've experienced abusive behavior, the National Domestic Violence Hotline can help you identify abuse and a safe plan of action. This holiday, make it a mission to check in on the ones you love. Often victims of violence will isolate themselves from fear or shame. If you suspect abuse happening to your neighbor or friend, keep a journal of anything you've seen or heard to provide evidence if they ever choose to prosecute. Calling the police isn't always a good idea. Read more about why here. Instead, you should make a call to a local or state violence center for further steps. 


If you’re struggling to stay sober...

Retail alcohol sales increased roughly 40% at brick and mortar establishments after bars and restaurants closed for stay-at-home orders. According to Winsight Grocery Business, online sales for alcohol skyrocketed at 339%. Alcohol misuse is already a public health concern across the US. COVID-19 may worsen these behaviors long after the pandemic. The director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism said we could look at other catastrophic stressors like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina. During times of stress, the added anxiety and uncertainty of the future can lead people to consume more alcohol. 

Risk factors amid COVID-19: Consuming alcohol in larger quantities will affect your immune system and the body's ability to fight viral infections, especially in the lungs. Drinking alcohol to cope with stress, sleep disturbances, and even boredom increases the chance for alcohol use disorder. Recovering alcoholics live with their condition daily. Over 2 million members participate in Alcoholics Anonymous and well over 100,000 groups worldwide. Recovery takes a wide network of social support. With social distancing, a lot of this has gone away, but there are still things to do and ways to help. 

What to do: There are online AA meetings available like the Token Shop. Finding ways to connect with friends and family, even your sponsor, will help keep you grounded. These interactions are vital to stay safe these holidays. Whether you are struggling with diagnosed alcohol use disorder or not, be aware of new triggers. Be mindful of your mental health.


If money is really tight this year...

Many Americans were struggling to make ends meet before the pandemic, but a record number of 40 million Americans filed for unemployment during April. The long-term impact of COVID will show families facing worse financial burdens, the ability to get a job or make ends meet, foreclosures, and evictions in the months to come. There is no worse time to deal with money stress than during the holidays. 

Risk factors among COVID: Minorities are disproportionately more affected with financial burden caused by the pandemic. Families struggling to make ends meet and are also trying to put their kids through online schooling. They are struggling to make it work. There are roughly 42 million Americans without access to the internet at home. Because of social distancing and closures, many people have difficulty finding work, going to school, teaching their kids, and staying connected without the internet. 

What to do: Ask for help. There are organizations and nonprofits set up to help families provide gifts to their children during the holidays. Keep your holiday small. Keep your kids' priorities focused on family and find other ways to show them support. In turn, this might relieve some of your own stress because you would have found ways to cope and participate in self care. While the white house is still working on another stimulus bill, there are other programs that cab help. Food Stamps can help alleviate some stress when grocery shopping. There are also programs helping to reduce internet costs. 

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Inspiration

Lonely Planet's Best in Travel Picks for 2021 Reflect a New World for Travel

Global travel authority Lonely Planet has today unveiled a radical reimagining of its much-awaited Best in Travel picks for 2021, reflecting an unprecedented year of disruption in the travel industry. For the first time, this year's list spotlights not only places but also people and communities who are transforming the travel industry. In 2021, Lonely Planet is looking ahead to the important changes taking place globally, from sustainability to diversity, and shining a light on the future of travel. "Travel is a much more considerate exercise in 2021 than it has been ever before," Lonely Planet CEO Luis Cabrera said. "With travelers cautiously re-engaging with the world and focused on ensuring their impact is safe and positive for host communities, we have decided to highlight destinations and individuals that truly enable visitors to have transformative experiences and make genuine contributions." Travel is always changing. Best in Travel 2021 champions people who make travel a force for good, all the more essential in a year when COVID-19 has disrupted and deprioritized travel. Best in Travel 2021 reflects how travel contributes to sustainability, community, and inclusivity and ponders how we can best explore the world responsibly. Rather than delivering a destination bucket list, Lonely Planet focused on how people travel now: outdoors; in family groups; purposefully; with careful attention to the communities they will explore. After a tumultuous year for travel, Best in Travel also symbolizes Lonely Planet's commitment to these values. "We are taking the chance to re-emphasize what we are here for and why: our mission remains to be a trusted travel companion. One that inspires, informs, and guides, while being in sync with your travel wants and needs," said Cabrera. Lonely Planet started the process for the 2021 Best in Travel list by seeking nominations from Lonely Planet's vast community of staff, writers, photographers, videographers, bloggers, publishing partners, and more. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and, like the rest of the travel world, Lonely Planet hit the pause button. But other things changed, too. The conversation surrounding diversity took a decisive shift. The future of travel moved towards small-group engagement and decades-old issues like overtourism came back to the forefront. As a result, Lonely Planet's picks fit this new approach and are tailored for travel in 2021 — a year that's going to be like no other. Highlights in Lonely Planet's Best in Travel List for 2021:Sustainability Discover the remarkable people and places transforming travel and making the world a better place - for now and future generations. Winners include: Soraya Abdel-Hadi Le Vie di Dante (Roads of Dante) Rwanda Antigua & Barbuda Rocky Mountaineer Greece Virginia Mountain Bike Trail Grootberg Lodge, Namibia Palau Gothenburg, Sweden Diversity Everyone has a different story to tell. Celebrate the people and places that illuminate the mosaic of stories and perspectives found around the world. Winners include: Gabby Beckford, Packs Light Costa Rica El Hierro, Spain Hiakai, New Zealand Jeff Jenkins, Chubby Diaries Wheels of the World Karl Krause and Daan Colijn, Couple of Men Gullah Islands, USA San Diego, USA Amman, Jordan Community Who knows best what kind of travel will benefit their communities? People who live and work there, of course, offering authentic and unforgettable experiences that give back to local communities. Winners include: Invisible Cities, U.K. Kazakhstan Faroe Islands Medellín, Colombia Tesfa Tours, Ethiopia Australia Hesham Moadamani, Refugee Voices Tours Footprints Café, Cambodia Burren EcoTourism Network, Ireland Georgette Jupe, Girl In Florence The Best in Travel list is a two-way street in 2021, as well. In January, Lonely Planet will announce readers' nominations of their own favorite people and places that are shaping the future of travel this year and beyond. Reader's Choice voting begins today and can be found on the Best in Travel landing page. For those interested in visiting one of the destinations in Lonely Planet's Best in Travel list, KAYAK's suite of COVID-inspired tools, including its flexible filters, Explore feature, and Travel Restrictions map can help travelers do it smartly. For more information on the Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2021 list, go to www.lonelyplanet.com/best-in-travel. Award destinations can also be explored with Lonely Planet's Guides app for free and on social media channels via #BestInTravel.

Inspiration

Does Abraham Lincoln's ghost haunt The White House?

The White House is one of the USA's most iconic buildings. Imagine how much its walls have seen since it opened in 1800. The spirits of countless scandals, wars, assassinations, and other political skullduggery are commonplace. But what if other spirits haunt the walls of The White House? As it turns out, multiple people report being haunted by one particular ghost - that of President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, who was assassinated on April 14, 1865 and died just a few blocks from The White House, has been said to haunt the halls since his death. The first reported haunting of Abraham Lincoln's ghost happened in 1870. A photographer named William H. Mumler took a photo of the widowed Mary Todd Lincoln. When the photo was processed, the ghost of her husband can be seen standing behind her. Sharp minds might dismiss this as an accidental double negative, or some other type of trick with film. But, consider these other reports.Mary Todd Lincoln with the ghost of her husband. Photo by William H. Mumler (public domain) Several First Families have reported hearing footsteps pacing the hall outside the Lincoln bedroom. Eleanor Roosevelt reported that her dog, Fala, would often bark at what she presumed to be Lincoln's ghost. Harry Truman's daughter Margaret reported hearing a specter tapping on the door of the bedroom. President Truman himself reported being jolted awake in the middle of the night by taps on the Lincoln bedroom door. Other White House employees have reported seeing shadows of Abraham Lincoln sleeping in the Lincoln Bedroom, or pulling on his boots. People also claim to have seen Lincoln's ghost directly. First Lady Grace Coolidge was the first person to report physically seeing the ghost - she saw Abraham Lincoln standing at a window, staring outside. On one occasion, FDR's personal valet ran screaming from The White House after he saw Lincoln's ghost. President Lyndon Johnson also reported seeing Abraham Lincoln's ghost, in times of distress. Johnson reportedly asked the ghost of Abraham Lincoln how to handle war, and reported Lincoln's response to be "don't go to the theater." The Lincoln Bedroom. Source: Library of Congress.Lincoln's presence doesn't just haunt Americans. In 1942, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands claims to have heard footsteps outside the bedroom she was staying in at The White House. She answered a knock at the door, and then found Abraham Lincoln, in his coat and top hat, standing before her. Winston Churchill reportedly met Abraham Lincoln's ghost while naked. Churchill was fresh out of a bath, where he loved to drink scotch and smoke a cigar to relax. He walked into his White House bedroom fully naked, still smoking a cigar, only to see the apparition of Abraham Lincoln standing near the fireplace. As Churchill told it later, he tapped the end of his cigar and said "Good evening, Mr. President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage." Reportedly, Lincoln laughed to himself and disappeared.

Inspiration

How to safely celebrate Halloween in the US this year

Let’s face it, Halloween is going to be different this year. Because of the pandemic, the CDC recommends skipping trick-or-treating and in-person parties in favor of lower-risk activities like carving and decorating pumpkins with your family or having virtual costume contests with friends. If you’re willing to wear a mask and stay at least six feet from others, moderate-risk activities like outdoor costume parties and visits to pumpkin patches are fine, but indoor costume parties and traditional haunted houses are now considered to be higher-risk. While theme park favorites like Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Walt Disney World have been cancelled—die-hards can still attend socially distanced Halloween-themed events at Hersheypark, Dollywood, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and select Six Flags theme parks as long as they book tickets ahead of time, wear a mask and have their temperatures checked upon entry—communities around the country have been forced to get creative and figure out fun ways to keep the spirit of Halloween alive this year. Here’s how you can still celebrate safely. Salem, Massachusetts While Salem is best known for its witch trials of the late-1600s, it’s also a hot spot for all things Halloween. This year, however, Salem will be closed the last weekend of October and its Haunted Happenings events are moving online. Visit the Virtual Haunted Happenings Marketplace to see and buy creative wares from local artists, tour a historic home on a virtual house tour and tune in to see who wins the Halloween at Home Costume Contest. Hudson Valley, New York While most of Sleepy Hollow’s Halloween events have been cancelled due to the pandemic, some, like the All Shorts Irvington Film Festival and Tarrytown Music Hall’s Harvest Hunt and Virtual Ghost Tour are moving online this year. Sleepy Hollow Cemetery Walking Tours and a few other in-person events are also being held with Covid-19 restrictions in place, though you’ll need to book tickets online since no last-minute walk-ins will be allowed in this year. Nearby in Croton-on-Hudson, don’t miss The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze at Van Cortlandt Manor, happening now through November 1, then Nov. 6-8, 13-15 and 20-22. Tickets must be purchased ahead of time online and mask wearing and social distancing are required. Long Island, New York In Old Bethpage, you’ll find the second location of The Great Pumpkin Blaze, operating at limited capacity now through November 1, then Nov. 4-8. In Yaphank, fans of drive-thru haunted houses can brave The Forgotten Road in Southaven County Park. Purchase tickets and download the audio tracks before you go, then play them as you drive up to each of the marked signs in this immersive 30-minute Halloween experience. Washington, D.C. From ghost tours and scary drive-in movies to pumpkin-centric celebrations and Halloween happy hours, there are plenty of ways to celebrate safely in the capitol this year. Yorktown and Norfolk, Virginia For a real treat, head to the Paws at the River Market pet costume parade at 1 p.m. on Oct. 31, part of Yorktown Market Days. Nearby in Norfolk, it’s Halloween at the Chrysler Museum of Art, where staff members dress up as their favorite works of art and kids can create their own glass-blown pumpkins (timed tickets are available online). Spooky virtual tours are also happening via Facebook Live at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Oct. 31, as is a virtual Mystery at the Museum Zoom event starting at 7 p.m. Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia The Savannah Children’s Museum is hosting “Tricks, Treats, and Trains,” at the Georgia State Railroad Museum. The Children’s Museum of Atlanta also has a number of Halloween themed activities happening from October 24–31, like a costumed dance party, spooky exhibits about spiders in The Science Bar and Halloween themed arts and crafts in the Creativity Cafe. Tickets must be booked in advance and all children ages five and up are required to wear a mask. New Orleans, Louisiana Pick up a pumpkin from Lafreniere Pumpkin Patch, dress up for the Jefferson Community Band Halloween Concert on October 29, watch Ghostbusters from your car at the Pontchartrain Center, and visit the New Orleans Nightmare Haunted House, among other themed events this year in Jefferson Parish. Chattanooga, Tennessee This year, Chattanooga Ghost Tours is running its Murder & Mayhem Haunted History Tour as well as a neighborhood Halloween decorating contest, listing the most spirited houses on its website so people can check them out from their cars. Louisville, Kentucky Don’t miss the Jack O’Lantern Spectacular drive-thru experience at Iroquois Park, happening now through Nov. 1 from dusk until 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on Friday and Saturday. Be aware that there may be up to a 2.5-hour wait, so bring along your favorite Halloween movie to watch in the car until it’s your turn to go through. Miami, Florida Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables is hosting a special Yappy Hour and pet costume parade on Oct. 29 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Both humans and their dressed up fur babies will receive complimentary snacks during the ticketed event. Over in Miami Beach, restaurants along historic Española Way are offering Halloween night specials on food and cocktails, making it a great spot to grab some outdoor grub. Chicago, Illinois Chicago’s popular Crypt Run is a virtual 5K this year, so sign up through the website and run it on your own terms. This year’s iteration of the Music Box Theatre’s annual scary movie marathon will take place at the Chi-Town Movies Drive-In through Oct. 31. Fans of The Shining will love Room 237, an interactive pop-up experience and lounge at Morgan Manufacturing. You’ll be a guest at the Overlook Hotel, with its giant hedge maze, Gold Room cocktail bar, photo-ops based on movie scenes and specially themed drinks like “Redrum” and “Come Play With Us.” Hocus Pocus fans should stop by the “I Put A Spell On You” pop-up bar and kitchen at Homestead On The Roof now through Nov. 8, where you can taste cocktails and dishes inspired by the film. St. Louis, Missouri Celebrate Halloween at Union Station now through Oct. 31, by wearing your favorite costume, spending 30-45 minutes walking through the tent maze and four historic train cars—all decked out in spooky decorations featuring witches, skeletons and other creepy creatures—and taking home some candy and a pumpkin to decorate. Book your tickets ahead of time online, where there’s also an option to add a scenic ride on the St. Louis Wheel. San Diego, California Mostra Coffee is hosting Movie Nights Under the Stars, where you can catch a showing of Casper or Coco on Oct. 29 or Oct. 30, enjoy dinner and dessert, and win a $50 cash prize in the costume contest. Each adult ticket comes with a Mostra beverage, while each children’s ticket comes with a trick-or-treat bag full of candy. Those with little ones should check out Gyminny’s Spooky Drive-Thru, where you can safely catch a circus show, dress up in your favorite costumes, and get some goodie bags from your car.

Inspiration

The face in the courthouse window

In Carrollton, Alabama, west of Tuscaloosa, almost to the Mississippi line, sits the Pickens County Courthouse. This courthouse was built in 1877, after it was destroyed several different times during the unrest of the civil war and reconstruction. People who visit the courthouse today can still see a ghost of these times - the terrified face of a man, etched permanently in a window. Legend has it that the face belongs to a Black man named Henry Wells, a freedman who had previously been enslaved nearby. In 1878, Henry was arrested for allegedly burning down the previous courthouse. He was taken to the courthouse to await trial. After word of his arrest spread through the town, a mob of drunken white men gathered outside the courthouse. Henry, watching the mob gather outside, is rumored to have yelled "I am innocent! If you kill me, I will haunt you for the rest of your lives!" At just that moment, a bolt of lightening struck the courthouse. The flash illuminated the scared look of terror on Wells' face. The face in the courthouse window. Photo by Brian Collins (Flickr). The mob eventually forced their way into the courthouse, where they took Henry Wells outside and lynched him. When the light of day arose the next day, people noticed that Henry's face and the look of fear, that had been illuminated by the lightening, was somehow etched on the window of the courthouse. The face remains there to this very day. In the centuries since, people have tried to wash the face off the window to no avail. They even tried to replace the glass, but nothing has been able to remove the terrified face of Henry Wells from the window.

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