There’s two days until Christmas, so it’s likely you’ve already made your holiday plans. The CDC, Dr. Fauci and many politicians and leaders are advocating staying home for the holidays. This is a challenging situation and one that, at least in the US, has been left to the individual and the honor system.

Current statistics are sobering. As of this writing, there were 245,033 new cases reported and 3,611 COVID-related deaths on December 16 in the US, bringing the total to 17 million cases and 308,000 deaths thus far. I’m sure the numbers today are even worse, and it’s scary. We’ve surpassed a daily death toll that’s greater than the number of people killed by terrorists on 9/11, and that number will keep growing unless we begin to get a handle on this virus.

COVID-19 has turned the world, and many people’s lives, upside down. People are no longer able to satisfy their five basic human needs—at least, not in the same way as before.

The five basic needs are Safety & Security, Connection, Significance, Freedom and Joy. COVID has caused many people to be concerned with Safety & Security for themselves and for people most vulnerable. For others, the need for Freedom rises to the top because of large-scale, indefinite restrictions. For others, the need for Significance takes prominence because they feel like they are being controlled unnecessarily.

The need that is most frustrated often dictates the behaviors we engage in. When working to meet our needs, it’s important to understand that a behavior can be ineffective or effective despite whether or not it is responsible. Ineffective simply means the behavior you’ve chosen doesn’t meet your needs. When you engage in an effective behavior, it works to meet one of more of your needs. When you care about the relationships you have with the people in your life, the goal to aim for is effective and responsible. Responsible means you get your needs met without keeping others from meeting theirs.

To assess whether your behavior is responsible, evaluate your behavior by asking, Is this working to get me what I want and is it keeping others from meeting their needs? When you are thinking of traveling for the holidays to get together with family or friends, you will be meeting your needs for Connection, Freedom and maybe Significance and Joy, but in the process, will you harm your friends’ and family’s need for Safety & Security? If your elderly relative is concerned that they don’t have a lot of years left, and so they want you to spend the holidays with them, you can meet your needs for Connection and Freedom by visiting, but you may be compromising their Safety & Security need. However, if you feel safe and they know the risk and want you to come anyway, that may be the most responsible choice. It wouldn’t be responsible if your Safety & Security need would be compromised by visiting. The idea is to meet your needs while not preventing other people from meeting theirs.

If you choose to visit during the holidays, the responsible thing would be to quarantine after returning home so you don’t compromise the needs of the people in your community.

When making sacrifices during COVID and even beyond, you will want to find alternative, effective and responsible ways to meet those needs. COVID has really made it difficult to feel safe anywhere except at home. The need for Connection is often compromised because we are advised not to interact with people who are outside our “bubble.” The need for Significance is challenged because people have lost their jobs and are struggling to feel competent in the midst of the pandemic. And while Joy is always available, people need to find new ways of experiencing it. This has been the challenge for many people in 2020, especially since most people aren’t aware and don’t have the navigation equipment that Mental Freedom provides.

Determine which need is most frustrated now and then employ a responsible solution that will help you meet that need. Here are some ideas:

Safety & Security: Create a physical fitness routine, make and adhere to boundaries, improve your financial situation if possible, plan for challenging times, improve your sleep habits, eat healthy food, plan your priorities well and get organized.

Connection: Video chat with loved ones; play games or online; share music; create a caroling group on Zoom and invite others to listen in; send cards, letters or emails; make phone calls; hug people in your bubble or hug yourself if living alone; go outside while maintaining distance; send gifts through Amazon, UPS, FedEx or USPS; send food delivery to shut-ins who aren’t cooking; and engage in self-reflection and development.

Significance: Organize a challenge, position yourself as an expert, take on a leadership role, volunteer for a worthy cause, develop a side-hustle, take a class, or complete a project you’ve been putting off.

Freedom: Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t; think about what you have, not what you don’t; maintain and further advance your independence; engage your creativity; and eliminate the toxic people in your life.

Joy: Maintain a healthy sense of humor, pursue a hobby, watch the sunrise and sunset, get out in nature, complete a puzzle, play a game, learn something new, start or maintain a yoga or meditation practice, and attend your religious observances online.

You can still enjoy the holiday season while being responsible. What choice will you make?

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