IOWA CITY — With Thanksgiving next week, many Iowans will be facing more stress because they won’t be able to spend time with their families due to the pandemic.
Emily Kroska, a clinical psychology professor at the University of Iowa, says many of us are struggling with difficult decisions and that uncertainty is bringing a range of emotions.
“There isn’t a right answer. There isn’t a perfect solution here,” Kroska says. “In order to keep our families and our communities safe, we need to do less of the indoor private gatherings, if any at all. Shifting outside or shifting online is the safest option and that can be really painful.”
Don’t brush aside or try to bury those feelings of sadness if you can’t be with family during the holiday.
“We can’t ignore that because it’s signaling that this is something that’s really important to us and we’re craving that connection,” Kroska says. “Finding other ways to connect with the people that we care about is really the best way forward here.”
Using a computer video chat program like Skype or Zoom is absolutely an inferior option, she says, but it’s one way we can see and hear our distant loved ones during a time when we’d all rather be together in the same room.
“What we need to be prioritizing is safety, so when we think about having a Zoom opening of presents with our families over the holidays or eating turkey in two different homes but being connected by computer, it’s not going to be the same,” Kroska says, “and if we have all of our loved ones there next Christmas, it’ll be well worth it.”
People who take stock of their emotions and address them with mindful action will fare better than those who don’t, she says.
“Focusing on the ways that we can connect and being willing to feel some of this pain and sadness that comes up,” Kroska says, “understanding that this is a signal and that our connections are important to us and seeking out that connection in whatever way feels safe during this time.”
She says it comes down to flexibility and our ability to adapt, adding, “Can you do what matters even when it’s challenging?”