Finding and Giving Hope During the ‘Pandemic’ Holidays

By Molly W. Blancke, BSW, MBA, Executive Director, LCC 

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” Jer. 17:7 

Even in the best of times, the holidays can be stressful and not nearly as perfect as we envision them. Perhaps you have experienced the recent death of a loved one or you have a family member who presents difficulties at every family gathering. This year, stresses are felt by everyone, presenting yet another time to postpone being with family and friends, a time when we may have to celebrate in person with only our immediate family or through a ‘zoom gathering’. How can we remain optimistic and keep our hearts centered on gratitude? 

Here are a few positive tips that may be helpful during this especially stressful holiday season: 

  • Acknowledge your feelings of disappointment, loneliness, or anxiety to those close to you. 
  • Decide beforehand with those in your home how you will celebrate and still include other loved ones. If you are unable to be together with family and friends, you can still connect through phone calls, zoom, skype, or personal letters to tell someone how much they mean to you. Plan meals and shopping accordingly. 
  • If celebrating in person, keep all safety precautions in place. If possible, be outdoors; if indoors, maintain distancing with dining setup and food delivery; maintain adequate air flow; limit gatherings depending on your space; enforce masks wearing; etc. 
  • Reflect on and give thanks every day for God’s blessings to you, either through a gratitude journal, daily prayer, or set aside time for meditation or reflection. 
  • Start a daily habit of focusing on God’s presence in your life, listening for His wisdom during prayers. Each morning, ask him to work through you in all that you do and trust that he will be with you throughout the day. 
  • If old traditions cannot be maintained, set new ones that are meaningful and less materialistic. You may want to give homemade gifts or donate a gift to your church or nonprofit in a loved one’s name instead of buying gifts. 
  • Do something to help someone else—a homemade meal, calling to chat with someone who lives alone, etc. can make a huge difference in how both you and the recipient feel. 
  • Be realistic and say ‘no’ to requests of others if taking on another responsibility would be overwhelming and make you resentful. 
  • Set aside differences with family members or friends during the holidays. Determine to be compassionate and forgiving. 
  • Keep or incorporate healthy habits, such as daily exercise—outdoors if possible; eating healthy meals; getting enough sleep at night; and avoiding excessive alcohol and sweets. 
  • Limit stressors by turning off the news, limiting your smartphone or other internet access. 
  • Incorporate daily times to listen to music, read a book, or go for a walk in nature.
  • If you are still sad and having difficulty dealing with the uncertainties we face this year, seek a mental health counselor. At Lutheran Counseling Center, our caring, professional Christian counselors are here to help you with pandemic stress, anxiety, grief and overwhelming sadness. 

For an appointment with any of our counselors or for more information, call LCC at 1-800-317-1173. For safety, all sessions are currently provided using a secure, HIPAA compliant virtual video and/or audio.

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Molly W. Blancke, MPA, BSW, BA, has had administrative positions at Lutheran Counseling Center since 1996 and has been the Executive Director since 2006.  A native South Carolinian, she demonstrated leadership skills as the Social Services Director for a large nursing home complex for eight years and prior to that, as a social worker advocate with mentally challenged children and their families. Molly is also an accomplished church organist and pianist and has held music director positions for several churches.

Her latest degree is a Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) with a concentration in ‘Non-Profit Management’ from Long Island University where she is also an adjunct professor in the university’s MPA program.

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