By Erica Marriaga, MSW, LCSW

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez

It is no surprise that the holidays are quickly approaching! This is the time of year when we either look forward to spending time with loved ones and creating new memories, or we dread the near future. Regardless, this year is going to look very different on many levels.

Socially distant holiday plans can be disappointing!

With guidance from the CDC and recommendations from the Department of Health, most people are wondering what their holiday plans will be. Do you plan to postpone, cancel, or limit the number of family members/guests attending a gathering? Will you be traveling outside of New Jersey?

There is an abundance of variables to consider.

Are you comfortable with the decision you have made or are considering? Regardless if you answered yes or no, I am sure that if it has crossed your mind. And as difficult as it may be, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

Sadly, because of the risk of gathering with our 30+ family members, some of whom are immunocompromised or high-risk, my husband and I have decided that this year will be a bit cozier.

As you might imagine, this decision is bringing up a lot of feelings for me. Some are positive: I get to help keep my family safe by maintaining my distance. Some are negative: I will miss seeing the ones I love and sharing in our usual traditions. I am allowed to feel them all, and so are you if your holiday plans are looking less festive than they might normally.

We won’t be able to participate in the yearly tradition of Thanksgiving dinner, with a massive array of appetizers, turkey, ham, sweet potato pie, stuffing, and a full table of dessert. We’ll also miss a contest to see who can decorate the prettiest styrofoam leftover container. But the most disappointing for me is that we won’t be able to enjoy the laughter and joy of those we hold dear. 

Practicing gratitude can help keep you mentally healthy.
Photo by Ty Williams

Even though I am allowed to feel these sad and disappointed feelings, I will also choose to remain GRATEFUL for the times to come and my memories from the past. And hopefully, we will be able to schedule a zoom call to remind our family that we love them!

In a blog post, Nationwide Childrens’ reminds us that “Gratitude is the quality of being thankful and showing appreciation for what we have. At a time when many of us are struggling to adapt to a new normal, practicing gratitude is more important than ever.” 

Gratitude symbolizes solitude and comfort in the positive experiences and valued treasures within traditions you have made and will make. 

There are times in which I need frequent reminders to remain grateful, and when there are so many unknowns with each passing day, it’s good to have extra reminders.

Some days I am grateful for the food that is put on the table, others the roof over my head. You might be grateful to sip on tea or coffee upon waking in the morning.

A few important factors to remember about gratitude: you can be grateful for several different things at one time. There are no limits, bounds, or rules when it comes to being thankful.

When I feel that I need to be reminded to be thankful, I create a gratitude list. You can join me if you would like, or you can take a look at mine if you just need a quick reminder of all you have!

Remember, there are no wrong answers when creating a gratitude list. After all, this is about how YOU feel andwhat YOU are grateful for!

  • My significant other
  • My two furbabies
    Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash
  • The opportunity to make one person smile
  • Puppy kisses
  • Ability to receive a degree and clinical license in a field I love
  • The beach
  • Memories of traditions with family members and friends
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Music
  • Loving childhood
  • A hidden blessing in the most difficult of times
  • My mother and father
  • Lessons I have learned by failing
  • Sacrifices others have made to create a better life for me
  • A compliment that made me feel good
  • My nieces and nephews
  • My resilience and passion in overcoming obstacles
  • Iced coffee
  • Eating meals with family and friends
  • Holiday traditions
  • Shelter

Are you going to create a gratitude list? What will you include in your list? How do you think creating this list will affect your mood and your outlook on the situation?

Reach Out to a Counselor to Help 

As always, if you find yourself struggling in these areas, do not hesitate to reach out for help. A licensed therapist or counselor can help empower you to be your best self! 




Erica Marriaga is a proud fur-mama of her one-eyed rescue dog, Toby and her new puppy, Tucker. She loves to spend time with her husband and bond with her family, nieces, and nephews. Erica is passionate and enthusiastic about her role as a therapist.  EWC has locations in Manalapan and Shrewsbury, NJ, and accepts a variety of insurances.

Check out Erica’s professional bio here!

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