Growing up in an Italian Catholic family, Easter weekend has always been one of my favorite weekends.
Every Good Friday my big Italian family would get together and cook a giant seafood feast of lobster, crab, shrimp, pasta and zeppole. A meal I look forward to all year. And as a child, the exhilaration of waking up before my brother so I could get a sneak peak at all the hidden Easter eggs was a feeling only secondary to Christmas morning.
This Easter and Passover weekend is definitely going to be different for a lot of us, but not all of us.
According to a 2015 study from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64% of people living with mental illness dread the holidays, as they exacerbate their condition. People who are at a particularly high risk are caretakers of elderly parents; small business owners; those recovering from addictions; or those who are recently widowed or divorced. All of these people are high risk for varying reasons including the feelings of being alone, financial stresses, and temptation to use substances.
This year we will find that even more of us will relate to how those who have mental illnesses have often felt. This long weekend there will be a lot of people celebrating alone, many experiencing financial stresses, and for those living with substance related disorders, this long weekend will provide more of a temptation to consume.
How can we take care of ourselves this first holiday long weekend of the pandemic?
- Continue to video chat with friends and family. I think by now we’re all becoming familiar with this new form of “hang out”. Apps such as Zoom, House Party, Skype, Face Time, and Facebook Messenger have all become imperative in our quest to stay social. However, if you have some family members who are reluctant to use these tools, keep in mind many people with social anxieties have a very difficult time calling others on the phone, or using these apps. If you have to stay in touch through texting with these family members it will still help them stay connected with everyone. Or even offer to chat with them one on one, rather than having them in an entire group conversation.
- Find online religious services. Religion and spirituality are a core part of many peoples’ identities, and for them they will be feeling an even greater loss not being able to attend services this weekend. There are a plenty of different online services happening this year. Even though you’ll be at home, dress up for it, take a picture! Years from now we will appreciate this ceremony even more as we remember the year when we couldn’t be with our loved ones or communities.
- Find online support groups. There are many online support groups for people with substance related disorders. Alcoholics Anonymous is just one option of many. Not everyone can relate to the 12-step process of AA so there are different options out there. Also, for those of you who don’t have a spiritual side, AA does also offer an agnostic version of their support group. Here are options for online AA meetings http://aa-intergroup.org/directory.php
- Take time to rest. This is for all you awesome essential workers out there who have been working tirelessly the past few weeks. If you don’t want to cook a big meal this weekend, don’t. If you want to sit around and read a book or watch endless hours of Netflix, enjoy it. If you’re tempted to check your email, unless it’s of imperative importance, don’t, you need a break too. And for those of you with partners who are essential workers, take care of them this weekend. If they are the ones who usually cook the big holiday meal or hide Easter eggs, do it for them. If they don’t want to participate in an online group chat with family because they’re exhausted, don’t make them.
These are just some tips for enjoying Easter or Passover weekend. If you know of any online Easter egg hunts, or volunteer opportunities this weekend, or links to different services, please share in the comments for everyone. Stay well this weekend!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Christine Fuda is the Mental Health First Aid Coordinator at Ontario Shores. During the pandemic, she will be blogging regularly around the impact of COVID-19 from a mental health perspective. Send your suggestions for topics to @email.