We have had one crisis after another this year—the virus—the environment that spewed drought driven fires and scary tornadoes—the depressing economic realities–the reverberating crisis and divisions in the political world.
And now we are to smile at the start of the holiday season?
Our holidays in Taos are enthusiastically celebrated by adults and youth—with planning and comparisons to previous years in anticipation of joy and sharing. It is a time to cherish family and tradition and express our faith.
But this year we have heard from the Governor and the CDC—that we should stay home—don’t invite others into your household—be cautious and caring toward yourself and others. Cautious and caring when we wish to enjoy the love and presence of those who are important to us? Both members of other local households and those who have traveled from a distance to share with us at this time will be missed deeply if we follow the guidance.
We should expect that this year’s changes will cause stress in our community: Taos Feeds Taos has a different model for food distribution, the schools have had limited face to face time and therefore less food available for youth, restaurants and movie theatres, stores and parks have closed.
Yet the excitement of the holidays has always come with some stress—especially for youth missing contact with their friends and needing support with behavioral health needs. Youth receiving TBH services are deeply impacted by the security of familiar routines –regular schedules, healthy food at a stable schedule, dependable connections with teachers or mentors. The disruption of school and work has already caused many of these activities to become irregular or missing entirely.
Parents who are working and also trying to supervise their youth’s schoolwork experience significant stress. The accumulation of fatigue and worry will impact their ability to create a holiday season that is joyous and satisfying. Traditions that depend on gathering an extended family now create a health danger and confront everyone with tough decisions. Who will be vulnerable if you ignore the public health guidance?
Those of us fortunate to have technology that includes Zoom and Skype, and Facetime can make some substitute connections. We can see each other and send love and energy back and forth. But we also need to talk about how to make the best of all of this.
Remembering past holidays and telling stories is one way to reinforce the emotions and connections. Reminding people of the time the dog ate the pie cooling in the garage or our great aunt forgot to turn on the oven for the turkey can emphasize family memories that knit us together. We can sing songs or recite prayers from faith and cultural traditions. We can make telephone calls to relatives living elsewhere and share the pleasure of hearing their voices. We can rejoice that it appears two vaccines may be available to us in the coming months.
A special situation for families involves the holidays in which grief has been experienced —and celebrations bring up difficult memories . This may be a recent death, or a youth may realize that some people cannot be in the celebrations due to a variety of tragedies—incarceration, serious illness or tough divisions between relatives. Depending on the child’s age—they react quite differently but it is important to share their sorrow—acknowledge tears and grief . It also can be possible to establish some new ritual or practice to honor the ones who are absent.
As we face the next two months—remember that Taos Behavioral Health is still serving youth, families and adults in appropriate safe ways. Regular phone support, zoom sessions, Facetime and email communication are all serving the community’s needs. And when the stress is mounting too high—remember that Holy Cross Hospital, the New Mexico Suicide Prevention line (1-866-435-7166) , the New Mexico Crisis and Access Line (1-855-662-7474) the National Suicide Prevention Line (1-800-273-8255) and the Peer-to-Peer Warm Line (1-855-466-7100) are all resources for the pubic.
Taos Behavioral Health has the largest credentialed and licensed behavioral health professionals in northern New Mexico. We can be reached at www.TaosBehavioralHealth.org or 575-758-4297.
Mary McPhail Gray is the board chair of TBH and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 575-779-3126.