November Behavioral Health Q&A

VPPPA has partnered with experts at MindWise Innovations to present a monthly Q&A article addressing questions that members might be hesitant to ask about. These columns will address your questions about mental health, substance abuse, brain injuries, family issues and more.

By: Lisa Desai, MindWise Innovations ​

1. My family and I have different feelings on social distancing. How can I politely decline to attend a family gathering without upsetting anyone?

The different ideas and beliefs about social distancing among extended family members are highlighted during the holidays.  Staying true to your safety preferences during the pandemic yet feeling pulled by family expectations can be stressful.   If you have decided to not attend a family gathering, you can decline by expressing your sadness about missing a tradition and reminding others of your worries about infection. Here are some examples of what to say:
“You know Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and I am going to miss everyone but this year we will have to pass. I am just too worried about COVID.”      
“This has been a really hard decision because we will miss seeing everyone at Thanksgiving, but the chance of getting COVID really worries me.”

2. I usually host Thanksgiving dinner, but I’m not comfortable doing so this year due to the pandemic. How can I express this to my family?

Hosting Thanksgiving can be a time-honored and much-loved tradition. Again, it is important to make the decision that is best for you and your family during this pandemic. You can use variations of the above statements when explaining to family that you cannot host this year.  Additionally, you can suggest social distance options to keep the family connected for this Thanksgiving, such as:

  • Schedule a quick 30 mins zoom family call during dessert time or to share a toast. That way family can at least see one another for a few minutes, yet it is not the strain of a prolonged virtual call (since many of us are zoomed -out!)
  • Create a recipe swap ahead of Thanksgiving so that family members can try out recipes that they’ve enjoyed in prior years (I’m trying out my cousin’s butternut squash lasagna recipe this year as we will be apart!)
  • If there are specific family members you rarely see other than at Thanksgiving, maybe give a phone call and catch up. We know that aside from delicious food, spending time with family is a cherished part of Thanksgiving and this way you can stay connected.

​​3.As an individual who lives alone, I’m feeling more and more isolated – especially with the holidays coming up. What suggestions do you have for staying connected to my family and friends – I’m sick of Zoom but miss everyone dearly.

For those living alone, the pandemic has brought challenges to feeling socially connected. Always remember that picking up the phone and talking – old school – can be incredibly gratifying and appreciated by others!  If weather permits, a social distance walk, even if you have to bundle up, is a nice way to catch up and get fresh air.  If you’re driving distance, visit a relative or friend and stay in your car for a bit to say hello and maybe drop off a Thanksgiving treat.  If it feels too difficult to get together with people, reflect on prior Thanksgivings or family times by looking through photos, creating a scrapbook and thinking about next Thanksgiving because this will not last forever!