Happy Hallo-Zoom

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While we await a vaccine and do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19 through adjusting to the “new normal,” avoiding social gatherings does not mean we need to avoid being social — especially with some of our favorite fall holidays coming up, like Halloween and Día de los Muertos.

Psychotherapist Dr. Lisa Cortez of Cortez Counseling Center specializes in depression and anxiety. When Texas first began a lockdown in March, she received an uptick of calls from people experiencing anxiety.

“Here in the Valley, it’s a little harder because the majority of our population is Hispanic, so we’re used to going to our abuela’s house,” she said. “We do a lot of things together — cookouts, parties, celebrations. We’re such a close community and right now, we can’t do that.”

The feeling of isolation, she said, can be compounded during holidays because they are so different than how they used to be. That is why she recommends utilizing technology to stay in touch with friends and family.

“It’s not the same as live. I think we do need that actual physical communication,” she said. “But for now, the best we can do is through Zoom.”

Just as companies are utilizing the platform to host meetings and stay in touch, individuals can use Zoom to celebrate milestones and holidays. Birthday parties, baby showers, and weddings are looking a bit different this year.

This begs the question —  what will Halloween 2020 look like? Just because we are urged to social distance doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate at all. People can still dress up in their favorite costumes and have their own costume contests. Families can also lean into the “trick” part of “trick or treat,” entertaining one another through the screen.

There are several other ways to get creative while virtually celebrating. Though it won’t be possible to pass the candy to virtual guests, Zoom allows a large number of people to connect on one screen to share family meals as if they were all together.

The components of what makes a holiday or occasion special — what is eaten, worn, or watched — can still be enjoyed in multiple individual households so everyone on the call experiences the same things.

Besides keeping in contact with loved ones, there are other ways to recreate the emotions one feels when around others in person. For instance, the act of hugging someone releases a hormone that causes happiness and joy. Cortez explains the same feeling can be experienced while working out.

“I keep telling everyone, even if you don’t normally work out, making it a habit is important not only for physical but also mental health because you release those hormones,” she said. However, it can be difficult to maintain a routine when you stay at home.

Zoom can be a great way to hold one another accountable by doing coordinated group workouts. It’s also a handy tool to check in on loved ones’ mental health, especially over the next couple of months during the holiday season.

For many, the holidays spark warm, fuzzy feelings and love of family. For others, however, it can be a time of loneliness. Long periods of social isolation may exacerbate those negative feelings. That’s why it’s even more important to utilize video chat platforms to build and maintain a community.

Drive-by socially distanced gatherings have also become a popular option. People simply drive by the house of whoever is being celebrated as that person stands outside on their lawn. They can see friends and family in person, but a safe distance apart. This may be a good way to trick or treat this year — and remember the loved ones we celebrate on Día de los Muertos.

People can get creative in finding ways to celebrate holidays by decorating their cars with paint, balloons, and other materials. They could even drop off a gift or card.

Cortez shares advice and best practices for coping during these stressful times on her Instagram and Facebook @drlisacortez. She recommends reaching out to a therapist if people need extra support. While she is not currently accepting clients, visit drlisacortez.com to find other therapists in the area.

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