DePaul students prepare for the holidays amid global pandemic



A woman photographs Christmas decorations on Oxford Street during a second lockdown in London, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. Businesses that have been forced to shut are hoping they will be able to reopen to salvage something of the crucial holiday shopping season. The government has been reluctant to say what restrictions will be in place for any particular area when the lockdown ends and says it’s still too early to see how the lockdown has worked. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

The holidays are around the corner, however things will be different this year. As travel plans and gatherings change due to the pandemic, some members of the DePaul community may be spending their December like never before, while others continue their traditions. 

“The holidays are often simultaneously times of stress and joy. This year, the stressors may be exacerbated with different circumstances, varying rules and regulations, health risks and disappointment,” said Katie Bellamy, the substance misuse prevention specialist at DePaul’s Office of Health Promotion and Wellness. 

As the Covid-19 continues to ravage through the United States and other parts of the world, more uncertainty comes towards the final months of 2020. According to The New York Times, 159,508 new cases were reported on Nov. 17 and the World Health Organization stated that the total number of global confirmed cases has hit over 55.3 million. 

Unlike years past, the world has implemented travel restrictions, whether it’s traveling around the United States or globally. states are constantly changing their quarantine travel policies based on the severity of the pandemic in their location. For traveling abroad, CNN listed countries where travelers from the U.S. aren’t completely banned but have to follow isolation protocols. 

As many navigate a newfound holiday season, DePaul’s Director of Clinical Training and associate psychology professor, Jocelyn Carter, along with DePaul’s Office of Health Promotion explained the pressing feelings we can expect this holiday season and provided tips for handling it.

FILE – In this Nov. 12, 2020, file photo, people get tested at the new saliva COVID-19 testing site at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. With the coronavirus surging out of control, the nation’s top public health agency advised Americans on Thursday, Nov. 19, not to travel for Thanksgiving and not to spend the holiday with people from outside their household. (Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune via AP, File) (AP)

With the pandemic, there’s an added layer of complexity because new ways of celebrating will have to be found,” Carter said.

Carter addressed that the holiday season prior to Covid brought upon different experiences for everyone. She said how they could be expensive, time-draining and can put conflicting family members in the same environment, which can result in muscle tightness, fatigue and increased irritability.  

Carter also said that the pandemic brings additional difficulties because of how people won’t be able to physically gather, and that decision will have to be made and communicated around tolerance or risk. 

“Some people may not physically gather and decisions will have to be made and appropriately communicated to people who may have different levels of tolerance for risk and may feel judged when others make different decisions than they do,” she said. 

As many people are seeing their plans change this year, some will be experiencing a holiday season like no other. 

Jennifer Honeycutt, a senior at DePaul hailing from Kansas, said her holiday plans have taken a turn. She will be driving home for Thanksgiving this year, however she will be spending Christmas in Chicago. As Kansas is one of the states on Chicago’s Emergency Travel map, Honeycutt will have to quarantine once she returns. 

“Pretty much, Covid is leading me to take a 10-hour car ride to be home for four days for the holiday,” Honeycutt said. 

Honeycutt also said that her mother will be getting tested before she comes up to Chicago to drive with her to Kansas and will both be wearing masks for the entire car ride. In addition, Honeycutt won’t be able to physically celebrate with her grandmother. 

“I can’t visit my 80-year-old grandmother while I’m in town because she’s high-risk, so we’re doing a drive-by wave,” Honeycutt said.

On the other hand, students living in other countries are looking at different circumstances. Peggy Tsai, a graduate student at DePaul from Taiwan, said her plans weren’t altered. 

“Well, my plan won’t be affected that much since I am back in Taiwan and we are not [on] lockdown or anything,” Tsai said. 

According to CNN, as the majority of the world was struggling to grapple with Covid-19 cases, Taiwan was one of the countries that was a role model for handling the pandemic. The end of October marked the 200th day of the country going without a locally transmitted case. The island has a population of around 23 million and 597 total cases since the pandemic began, with 553 recovered and seven deaths. 

Aside from Taiwan, New Zealand is also a powerful country when it came to handling the pandemic. According to NPR, the country quickly contained its outbreak through managed isolation and quarantine facilities. 

In addition, Carter shared her advice by encouraging to think about the values and meanings behind these celebrations, while also being flexible. 

“We can use this as an opportunity to be more generous with charitable giving if we aren’t spending money on clothes or other entertainment expenses — and be thankful for the time to reflect on what matters most to us,” Carter said. 

With many lockdowns still in store across the United States and other parts of the world, Bellamy presented tips on behalf of DePaul’s Office of Health Promotion and Wellness on how to handle emotions when they may arise. 

    • Honor your feelings while also moving through them – Rather than ignoring any frustration, fear, or sadness, make space to acknowledge, identify and communicate your feelings. Naming our feelings is not the same as getting stuck in them; in fact, the more we can acknowledge what we are feeling, the more likely it is we can begin to cope and move through those feelings.
    • Get support – whether this is from various DePaul support services (like HPW and UCS), a therapist, family, and/or friends, it is important to be socially connected. Schedule phone and video calls regularly — it’s harder to reach out when we are feeling low, so having pre-planned times to check in can help.
    • Embrace change – This is definitely easier said than done, but one way to approach the holidays this year is to both recognize the sadness that may arise in realizing our rituals and traditions look different this year and to be curious and open-minded about any new traditions or ways of being together that may come. 
    • Set boundaries – Take time to identify what boundaries (with yourself, others, substances, travel, etc.) you would like to set or are in place as regulations. Make a plan to communicate your boundaries. Our boundaries are values-based decisions that honor our needs and safety — while they may lead to disappointment at times, it’s important to respect our own and others’ boundaries without guilt or judgment. 
    • Find purpose – Connecting to meaning and purpose can help us cope with difficult feelings. Find ways to practice empathy, connect to your personal mission statement, focus on holistic wellness, give back to your community, volunteer your time, teach someone a new skill, and/or create art. Creativity and empathy are great antidotes to stagnant energy and challenging feelings.

Students can connect with HPW in the following ways: