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Thanksgiving (Self-) Care Package

Student-Run Peer Counseling Center Offers 5 Tips to Digest This Quiet Holiday

By Annie Krakower

Zoom Thanksgiving illustration

Illustration by iStock

With the CDC recommending staying home this Thanksgiving, the Help Center, a student-run peer counseling and crisis intervention hotline, offered tips to make the most of the quieter-than-usual holiday.

While Thanksgiving might usually consist of gathering at Grandma’s, cooking with cousins or battling your brother for the last piece of pumpkin pie, this year’s holiday—like countless other events amid the pandemic—will look a bit different.

As COVID cases surge, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week recommended staying home for the holidays, and according to an AAA survey, 90% of Marylanders are heeding that advice. But at a time that’s normally almost defined by get-togethers with family and friends, canceling plans can be painful.

For those struggling with feelings of disappointment or isolation, the Help Center, a student-run, confidential peer counseling and crisis intervention hotline, can be a resource. The center, celebrating its 50th anniversary on campus this year, provides support from trained student counselors, in addition to free pregnancy tests and other sexual wellness items. (Drop-in services at the South Campus Dining Hall office have been suspended due to COVID-19, but calls to 301.314.HELP are encouraged when the university is open.)

“People can call about something as serious as a crisis situation, or something relatively small, like a roommate dispute,” said Help Center President Micah Herman ’21. “Really anything that’s on their minds is cool to talk about.”

For holiday stressors minor or major, here are five Help Center tips to make the most of this quieter-than-usual Thanksgiving:

Seek out connections to preserve traditions 
Although some might be experiencing Zoom fatigue, catching up with out-of-town friends and relatives virtually can help holiday customs continue despite recommendations against travel, Herman said. Make a list of the people you want to check in with so that you can schedule calls or FaceTime sessions to ensure you get to everyone.

“You could definitely try to set up a call to maybe do some cooking with your grandma, for example, if that’s the tradition you’re missing out on,” Herman said, “or learn from them about the tradition to try to maintain it in your own way.” 

But give yourself space to feel difficult emotions
With all the cancelations, postponements and changes this year, it makes sense to feel disappointed or restless, Herman said. The Help Center suggests being gentle with yourself and taking time to process those emotions. And if you’ll be spending Thanksgiving with the same people you’ve been quarantining with for months, it’s understandable to step away for a bit.

“Even though this time is usually about togetherness,” Herman said, “if (you’ve) experienced a little bit too much togetherness recently, it’s okay to need time to yourself and to take time alone.”

Practice gratitude
2020 might not seem like a very gratitude-inspiring year, but the Help Center encourages keeping perspective by remembering what you are thankful for this holiday. Even with the COVID-caused adjustments, that’s one Thanksgiving tradition that can continue.

“Try to make a list of 10 things that you’re grateful for,” Herman said. “That list can be comprised of big-picture ideas, or little things, like getting to eat your favorite snack or stepping into crunchy leaves.”

Maintain healthy habits
Holidays could be hectic even pre-pandemic, and the solitude this year can create an added stressor. If you’re feeling down or isolated, a few simple wellness practices can help stabilize your mood or give you energy.

“Make sure that you’re getting around eight hours of sleep each night,” Herman said, “and get some daily movement, which can come from something as simple as taking a walk or doing some stretches.”

Remember: You deserve support
Overall, lean on available resources if you need help during what could be a difficult holiday season.

“If you’re feeling overwhelmed, reach out to a loved one or a mental health professional,” Herman said.

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Division of Student Affairs

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