The festivities are nearly here and, with all the concerns over COVID, we need some positive thoughts as we may find ourselves feeling less festive than usual. Help is at hand!
We asked three experts to give us their views on how we can make the most of this time, even though we may be missing family and friends, coping alone, and/or feeling sad or depressed.
Change of plan?
This has been a year that most of us want to forget. It has caused, and is continuing to cause, a lot of loneliness, stress and worry, and it feels like the end is not quite in sight. We need some positive thoughts.
Normally by now most of us would be looking forward to the Christmas holidays, getting together with family and all the preparations that go with that. It hasn’t helped that retail therapy has been difficult except for online!
Even if you’re someone who doesn’t particularly “do” Christmas, perhaps because you are on your own or you’re out of touch with your family, this enforced lockdown just highlights the feeling of isolation.
So, you have a decision to make: do you cancel Christmas completely this year or do you just delay it, deciding on a potential date for a get together in the New Year?
If you decide on the former it would make sense to avoid as much Christmas TV as possible, choosing instead to binge-watch streaming TV and films, learning something new (how to play backgammon online for instance) or downloading books you know and have loved onto your Kindle. Make yourself cozy, settle in and indulge yourself. (If you don’t have a streaming app or Kindle now would be the time to get both. They’re good company in my experience.)
For the latter, just do as much prep as you are able and meet up online on the day (FaceTime/Zoom are easy to set up and are free), then set a date in the New Year. Whatever you decide, please do bear in mind that this too shall pass.
Katie Gardner is a fully-qualified CBT Counsellor
The Essence of Hope
As we approach the festive season many of us may feel daunted at having to cope alone or already feel isolated.
Useful recommendations are to check–in regularly with friends and loved ones, join an online community, share your feelings, learn something new or do more of what you enjoy. However, these activities need desire and energy, which are often lacking when we feel alone.
Adopting a hopeful attitude will help us to stay enthusiastic. Hope is the positive expectation or belief that fulfilment is possible, that something good will result and events and circumstances will turn out well. Hope emerges more strongly when there is despairing, as it opens up to new and creative options. Hope gives coping a sense of liveliness, filled with the expectation and belief that we can attain our goals.
It may seem unrealistic to plan far-ahead, but short-term fulfilment can be beneficial. Tackle the present challenges by making provisions. Make plans and be creative in making them happen. Short-term goals are sources of hope. So plan small delights that bring comfort such as preparing a fire for later or an indulgent (usually forbidden) pudding, take time to read a book, and be mindful of looking after yourself and others.
We can also project our future-self and ask “What can I do now, that will allow me to look back with pleasure and pride as to how I braved the situation?”
Claire Stokes Laborde is a practicing psychotherapist and personal coach
The virus has impacted on us all and, as the year ends, the usual advice on how to handle family gatherings or loneliness is in the context of imposed restrictions. The solutions lie in creativity, thinking of others and acceptance.
If we can’t be with others physically, be creative. Use technology to talk, celebrate and play party games together online, send virtual hugs or messages with cute icons. Online shopping, home delivery and take-aways are all things to be grateful for, as is easy access to hobbyist and learning apps. Reach out to others with similar interests and join online groups and forums. Did you know that expressing gratitude also improves our mood? So, embracing technology is not only practical, but appreciating it releases pleasurable chemicals in the brain that can keep our spirits up.
Remember “giving is better than receiving”? Evidence shows that the happiest people are those who do things for others. So it’s a win/win if you look out for someone living alone who might appreciate a small home-made gift or a phone call.
Acceptance of this new way of being is also important. Looking back nostalgically is not a recipe for happiness. We do better when we enjoy the moment. If we like sharing old photographs over the internet that’s fine but yearning to return to that time can engender negative emotions.
Remember to take your daily exercise, enjoy the small things, and the rules enforced upon us might result in a very happy Xmas after all!
To hear more download Christine’s podcasts at www.getmentallyhealthy.com/podcast
Christine Haworth-Staines is a UK Chartered Psychologist and French registered Psychologue
First published in the Dec/Jan 2020/21 issue of The Local Buzz