Healthy Celebrating

This week our focus will be on healthy celebrating, whether you are celebrating a holiday, the new year, your accomplishments from 2020 or something else significant in your life. For many, the holiday season can be a time of both…fun traditions, food, and time well spent with friends and family while also being a time for loneliness, isolation, and challenges around navigating family dynamics. The holiday season can also be a time where we may be challenged in making healthy decisions related to alcohol and drug use. While this year looks very different than previous years as we continue to navigate the COVID 19 pandemic, we hope to share with you some ways to celebrate the holidays in a safe, healthy and fun way while also providing information and resources for those who might need additional support during this time.

Healthy Celebrating During the Holidays

This year the holidays may look very different for all of us due to the continued impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the various prevention guidelines in place. For some of us, we might be staying home and sheltering in place with those we live with to help slow the spread of COVID-19. For others, the holidays might look different due to travel restrictions or economic hardship. Regardless of your situation this holiday season, we hope that you are able to take some time to not only celebrate the holidays if you choose to do so but to also celebrate your accomplishments this year. It is especially important that you are able to look back on this challenging year and recognize the many hardships you have overcome and how you have cared for yourself throughout 2020. We encourage you to honor your accomplishments and recognize the many ways you have taken steps to care for yourself and others throughout the COVID 19 pandemic.

While some may still choose to travel to see their loved ones this holiday season, many people will be staying home. While we encourage all to limit travel and exposure to those outside of your immediate household, we understand that everyone’s situation is different this year. If you do choose to travel this holiday season, please check out the CDC website to learn more about ways to travel safely during the pandemic.

Despite the current conditions we face across the globe right now, there are still so many fun and creative ways to celebrate the holiday season and connect virtually with friends and family. Here are some local activities being offered in San Diego as well as virtual activities that everyone can engage in this holiday season:

  • Drive-Thru Holiday Lights: Take some time to check out some local holiday lights in your neighborhood from the safety of your car. Here is a list of holiday lights in the San Diego area for those who live or are spending the holidays in San Diego!

  • Holiday movie night:  Enjoy a holiday movie with those in your household or watch a movie with others on Zoom and utilize the chat box to interact with each other. Here are some holiday movies you can find on Netflix, HuluAmazon Prime, and even some free ones on Youtube!

  • Bake some holiday treats: Drop off homemade holiday treats to your friends, family, and neighbors from a safe distance. Check out this fun recipe for homemade hot chocolate bombs!

  • Get into the holiday spirit with some music: Here are some themed music playlists via Spotify or Apple Music!

  • Recipe Swap: Swap your favorite holiday recipes with friends and family! Take the time this year to try a new recipe that you’ve been wanting to make.

  • Try a gift exchange: Play secret santa with your loved ones and drop off or send them their gifts! Don’t forget you can also send gifts online such as egift cards.

  • Create new traditions on video chat: We can still connect with our loved ones virtually this holiday season! Share a meal, play games, sing Christmas carols, decorate cookies or engage in some gratitude sharing.

Substance Use and the Holiday Season

With the heightened stress and celebratory expectations of the holiday season, many individuals find it difficult to practice healthy decision making related to substance use. This can be especially concerning for those who are recovering or struggling with addiction use. The holidays can be stressful for many reasons, which might include the emotional stress of family conflict, trauma, financial concerns, and loneliness. With the added layer of the current COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals are experiencing these challenges at heightened levels. As you head into the holiday season, we hope you will consider some of the following tips to support your mental health and decision making related to potential substance use this holiday season:


  • Limit interactions or settings that might be triggering

  • Set necessary boundaries with friends and family

  • Create a plan or daily routine

  • Engage in healthy self-care practices

  • Seek a support system that you can regularly touch base with

  • Practice mindfulness


Please keep in mind that alcohol and other drugs lower our inhibitions and healthy decision making, which is critical to consider when we think about COVID precautions in particular. Distancing, mask-wearing, and general caution tend to be more challenging when you are under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Please make smart choices that will support the well-being and safety of you and your community.

Surviving Loneliness During the Holidays

Another reason many people struggle during the holiday season is due to a heightened sense of loneliness. People who are experiencing loneliness in their life often dread the holiday season for this reason, as it is hard to watch the people around them connect to those they love, making them feel more isolated and alone. It is especially important this year to focus on loneliness during the holidays since more and more people are going to be isolated from their loved ones due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Loneliness is not only a painful emotion to experience, it can also have a negative impact on one’s psychological and physical health, including your immune system. There are many ways to overcome loneliness this holiday season. For those who are socially isolated, it is important to reach out to those you love. Reaching out to friends and family is a great way to show that you care and feel a continued sense of connection. For those who are not socially isolated and are sharing space with others in your household, remember to engage in open and honest communication with your loved ones. Share with them how you are feeling and what you are struggling with, and have conversations around ways they can help you navigate these feelings of loneliness or isolation.

  • Ideas to combat loneliness during the holidays
    • Start a new tradition: Traditions are an expression of values, identity, and personal history. This year looks very different, we might not be able to participate in the same traditions we usually do around the holidays. Perhaps this year is the best time to break with old traditions and start a new one!
    • Rediscover an old talent: Take some time and think back to things you used to do as a child or young person that brought you joy. There is no better time to rediscover some of those old talents or hobbies and bring them back to life this holiday season!
    • Get outside: Go on a nature walk and take in the scenery. Exercise and fresh air is great for your mental well-being and your immune system! This is also a great opportunity to meet up with a loved one for a safe and socially distanced walk while wearing a mask.
    • Write letters and make phone calls: While we might not be able to see our friends and family in person this holiday season, it’s still important to stay connected. Take some time to call your loved ones, or even write a letter to them and send it in the mail as a nice surprise.

Be aware of signs that you or someone you know might be struggling and could use additional support from a mental health professional. If you are feeling withdrawn or disconnected, not enjoying things you typically enjoy, having difficulty sleeping, experiencing lack of motivation, have a poor appetite, difficulty concentrating, or feeling irritability and fatigue, these could be signs that you are experiencing a mental health concern. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms for a prolonged period of time, don’t hesitate to reach out for support. We have included a variety of resources available to all USD students below. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you are concerned about yourself, a friend or peer. We are here for you.



 “All your feelings this season are valid” – @AFSPnational 


We are here for you and care about you. #TorerosTogether #YouAreUSD