We have been bombarded with the idea of being home for the holidays on TV and in movies since we were little.
The excitement of having family from all over visit our home for Thanksgiving and Christmas has led to eager anticipation and probably many good memories. It only takes a quick second to think about Thanksgiving for most of us, and the fond memories of turkey, dressing, mac n' cheese, greens, sweet potato pie, and family gatherings can bring a smile to our faces.
One of the more disruptive impacts of COVID-19 is how these special holidays changed for many of us. Far too many of us have lost that connection to our families and the roots that we once used to recharge our internal batteries and help navigate a challenge we might be facing.
Seeing an aunt, uncle, grandparent, sibling, parent, or cousin was that instant dose of medicine that provided that deep sense of love and belonging; But the pandemic took that from us. And the reality is we never had a chance to talk about it.
A new survey by YPulse found that Gen Z members are indeed planning to celebrate Thanksgiving this year.
The survey focused on Gen Z and Millennials, ages 13 to 39 (when will Gen Z get set free from Millennials?), found that 42% said they were going to a friend's or family member's home for Thanksgiving. That is up from the 39% reported last year. — 22% of those surveyed said they were traveling this Thanksgiving, increasing from 17% recorded the year before.
As we approach the upcoming holiday, many of us will cautiously travel to in-person gatherings with family and friends for the first time since COVID-19 arrived. Even with vaccinations and other precautions, many of us are still uneasy about what this new pandemic-affected gathering will reserve for our families and us. What was once a holiday season that brought us positive energy is the new reality that we will be sitting at the table for Thanksgiving dinner thinking about what being in close contact again will mean for our future.
Dr. Donna Hamilton, a physician and Trauma-Informed Well-being Strategist, shared with me that "awareness is the first step to changing anything."
It's essential for Gen Z'ers, especially college-age & young adult Gen Z, to recognize they might be experiencing new, unfamiliar holiday stressors. — No, you're not imagining it. And no matter what more seasoned adults may say, you are not too young to be stressed.
It's important to have a holiday well-being plan. A good plan includes specific strategies for taking care of yourself in mind, body, & spirit. Include proactively identifying items, activities, & people that help you feel better and identifying those that tend to make you feel worse. Be intentional about connecting with what uplifts you and limiting contact with what causes you to feel worse.
First, take a moment to consider the advice from Dr. Hamilton. Although these are our family and close friends that we are preparing to see, be cautious and try to follow the CDC's recently released holiday celebration suggestions. Since these holiday celebrations are usually multi-generational, be conscious of our elders who may have underlying health care issues that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.
As we prepare for this hectic holiday season, we will have possible mental health concerns ourselves. This could be a genuinely challenging time when you think about what many Gen Z members have faced since the pandemic and the realities of navigating a world and being physically disconnected from our families, friends, social groups, and networks.
The Mayo Clinic also offers a few helpful tips on preparing for the stress and challenges that will come with the upcoming holidays. They point out that we must take a self-assessment and acknowledge the feelings we are having. Many of us have lost loved ones, and coming together for Thanksgiving may lead to sadness and grief over that loss.
Some of us may not travel this year due to concerns about increased exposure at crowded airports or family gatherings. If you decide not to travel to a family gathering, that is fine, and you should not feel pressured into attending any event. You are allowed to have your concerns for your safety and well-being.
At the same time, if you are staying home by yourself, it is easy to feel isolated or alone this holiday season. We are sure to see many TikTok and Instagram posts about family gatherings, and those can help lead to a greater sense of isolation or missing out. Remember that you are not alone and should reach out to family, friends, and social groups you are a part of to stay connected.
There are also resources available from groups such as the Black Mental Health Alliance, Therapy For Black Girls, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Crisis Text Line, and others that can help. Don't feel embarrassed if you need support or help; take action and reach out.
We have been through a historically disruptive event that will shape our lives for decades to come. The impact of COVID-19 has touched all aspects of our lives during what will be our most formative years. We have endured a disruption that forced many of us into emergency distance learning. Many students miss their proms and high school graduation.
Many started college not in a dormitory but at home, logging into class remotely while still paying full tuition for a significantly different college experience. Yes, we have had our struggles, but we should remember that as we move into a new world shaped by a global pandemic that we stay mindful of our mental health and take the actions of self-care seriously.
Haley Taylor Schlitz is 19 years old and in her third year at SMU Dedman School of Law. In May of 2019, she became Texas Woman's University's youngest graduate in history when she graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas Woman's University College of Professional Education. She is also the host of the online show Zooming In w/Gen Z. Follow all her endeavors on Instagram and Twitter.