24 Nov BLOG: What will Christmas be like during Coronavirus?
What will Christmas be like during Coronavirus?
There are few things as anticipated as Christmas. After months of social distancing, the promise of eventual normality has been keeping many of us going. But as festive restrictions look ever more likely, our holiday plans may also look a little different this year.
When we think of Christmas, most of us have a picture in our heads of how it should be; relaxed and stress-free. But despite our best wishes for everyone to be at their happiest during the festive season, life just doesn’t work that way. In fact, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England according to mental health charity, Mind; and this is without any enforced isolation and potential loneliness this year due to Coronavirus.
We often put ourselves under a huge amount of emotional and financial pressure to make Christmas ‘the most wonderful time of the year.’ The cold, dark winter months coupled with the pressure to be seen to be having a good time can feel overwhelming. Especially for those who live alone or without family nearby. And now with the added threat Coronavirus poses to both our own and our loved ones’ health, many of us will have to face some tough decisions over who we can and cannot share our Christmas with.
The important thing to remember is, this won’t last forever. Christmas is all about togetherness, and we are most definitely all in this together. So, no matter how we might achieve this – be it in person, over Zoom or something entirely different – we thought we would share some tips on how to make this Christmas more meaningful for yourself and those around you.
Skipping festivities doesn’t mean missing out on tradition
It’s so easy to focus on what we can’t do this Christmas. But there are plenty of ways you can still celebrate your usual and more unusual traditions; from listening to classic Christmas tunes, watching quintessential Christmas films to investing in an ‘Elf on the Shelf.’ If you’re hunting for that ‘Christmas feeling’, here are some sure-fire ways to get you in the Christmas spirit:
Use your imagination: If you have children or simply want something to fill your time with, focus your energy on the creative side of things. ‘Deck the halls’ with all the tinsel and sparkles you can find. Try your hand at designing your own Christmas cards, or personalised Christmas crackers. Make your own Christmas wreaths and Advent calendars. Create your own ornaments to adorn your Christmas tree. Luckily, the UK’s garden centres remain open for those of you who want the real Christmas tree experience!
Try something new: Why not attempt some new recipes? Learn how to cook up the perfect Christmas roast or bake some festive treats to share with friends and loved ones, or even just to treat yourself. You could start from scratch and make your own gingerbread house, or a batch of homemade mulled wine – non-alcoholic for those who are taking it easy; and fill your kitchen with the glorious scents of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.
Don’t miss the magic: Christmas is possibly the most colourful time of the year due to all the spectacular Christmas light displays. So, take advantage of that by driving or walking around and looking at the beautifully lit-up houses in your neighbourhood. It is also the perfect time of year to focus on family connections, friends, emotions and memories; to maintain a sense of hopefulness that no matter what, Christmas can and will be special this year.
The opportunities are endless. On the flipside, if you don’t feel like celebrating in the traditional sense this year, that’s okay too. Remember that Christmas makes up such a small portion of the year. It is, after all, just another day. Traditions can be wonderful things and are a nice way of people providing structure to a holiday. But that is all they are, and sometimes disengaging from them can be refreshing.
The most important thing to note is, Christmas is what you make it.
A time for connection and reflection
As much as Christmas can be an incredibly social time of year, it can also highlight the absence of connection. Not seeing your friends, family, work colleagues or perhaps even therapists on a regular basis can leave you feeling incredibly isolated. It is important to remember that you are not alone. Everyone is experiencing this pandemic together. So, don’t hide yourself away. Rather, be the one to reach out to your friends and loved ones. If the rule of six means there’s no room at the table, make the most of virtual platforms like Facetime and Zoom. Give them a call, write them a letter. What are they up to over Christmas? How are they coping with everything that’s going on? Catch up! You will most likely find that your anxieties are more common than you think.
This being said, without people around you to pick up on changes in how you are coping face-to-face, it is also important that you are vigilant in checking-in on yourself. Below are five things you can personally check-in on a weekly basis:
Thoughts & feelings: Be honest with yourself about how you are feeling. If you are struggling, help others to understand what you’re going through and lean on them for support. Create space for these conversations. They can offer different perspectives from whatever is going on inside your own head and keep you grounded. Online communities like Togetherall and Ginger can provide peer-to-peer support and a safe space to talk about your mental health, without judgement.
Mood: We all know that Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a little bit of indulgence, whether that’s alcohol, food or other seasonal treats. But once this turns into overindulgence it tends to impact on how we feel. So, make sure to maintain a healthy balance – everything in moderation! The colder, darker days can also trigger the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), sometimes known as the ‘winter blues’, which can lead to feelings of lethargy, irritability and worthlessness. You can combat these feelings by immersing yourself in nature, making the most of the sunlight hours and giving yourself time to relax and unwind. Meditation apps like Headspace and Calm are also great ways to practise mindfulness and be kind to your mind.
Routine: Simple steps like getting up on your first alarm, making your bed in the morning, keeping your home-work space separate, and exercising as much as possible will make all the difference to your mental health. But please don’t forget to carve out time for yourself. Whether that’s focusing on your fitness regime by attempting the Couch to 5k, going for a winter walk to get some fresh air, reading your favourite book or running yourself a candle-lit bubble bath; your mind and body will thank you.
Digital usage: Social media can be damaging for our mental health at the best of times; particularly when people are sharing highlights of their ‘perfect Christmas’. So, if you feel yourself getting stuck in the comparison trap, give yourself permission to switch off. The news can also be misleading, so make sure to solely focus on the facts and stay informed via credible sources like: WHO, NHS, GOV, BBC. Disconnecting from our phones, laptops and TV’s gives us the chance to distract ourselves from outside pressures and reconnect with other parts of our lives we would otherwise be neglecting.
Outlook: Are you always worrying about the worst-case scenarios? Wondering if things will ever get better or if you will be able to cope? Your internal monologue is like having your own radio station. Only you have the power to tune into a more positive, uplifting frequency. Dwelling on the ‘what if’s’ won’t do you any good. Check out some positive news sources like The Happy Newspaper, Good News Network or Positive News. But ultimately focus on what you can control. Make a list of all the things you have to be thankful for this Christmas… and smile. Smile, whenever you can.
Never underestimate the power of kindness
Reach out: Spare a thought for those individuals who may find themselves on their own for the first time this year. We can all play an important role in ensuring our elderly and at-risk neighbours feel valued and included in addition to our own support bubbles. Simply taking the time to check in on them when they need it most can make all the difference. Let them know that you are there to help if and when they need it. This could involve a simple phone call, dropping some groceries outside their door, or sending them a care package. Or perhaps organising a virtual meet-up; or writing a personalised Christmas card to let them know that you are thinking of them. Focusing your efforts on making others feel loved and less alone during the festive period can be most rewarding. We need the community spirit now more than ever.
Volunteer: Some of the most important Christmas gifts cannot be wrapped; time, especially. We are likely to have more time on our hands than we’ll know what to do with this year, and there are so many ways you can lend it. You could volunteer as a call companion with charities like Re-Engage, to help provide that lifeline of friendship. Similarly, the Royal Voluntary Service has formed a Virtual Village Hall, which offers volunteers a wide range of activities to take part in online; promoting wellbeing and keeping people active and occupied through the pandemic. The smallest of gestures may not take more than a few minutes, but the memory of helping others will stay with you – and those you help – for so much longer.
Show your support: Christmas can also be a pivotal time for small businesses. We automatically tend to head to supermarkets to stock up on all our Christmas food. Instead, see what delicious local produce your local farmers have to offer – you might even get yourself a bargain. If you’re shopping online, major sites like Etsy and Ebay work by bringing lots of small businesses into one place. If you already know a small business you love, spread the word! Supporting them and sharing them with others is a great way to connect with your community and give something back.
Christmas at Oakleaf
As the nights get colder and the leaves begin to turn, Oakleaf is also looking towards winter and the impact the pandemic will have on its clients this Christmas. We are currently running a fundraising campaign to enable us to produce up to 300 Christmas Care Baskets for clients. These will include various Christmas treats such as mince pies, crackers, chutney, chocolate, cordial, and hot cocoa – a way to show our clients that they are cared for and have not been forgotten this Christmas.
If you would like to help us spread some Christmas cheer and sponsor a Christmas care basket this year, please click here to make a donation.
Help is always available
For those affected this Christmas, please make use of the resources below:
Mind: How to Find a Therapist
Samaritans: 116 123 (24 hours)
Citizens Advice: 03444 111 444 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm)
Guildford Safe Haven: 6-11pm, 365 days a year