Christmas is a time of celebrations, presents, good food, seeing family and friends, and going out.
But this year is hugely different with COVID-19, isolation, loneliness, and regionalised restrictions, making 2020 a particularly tough time of year especially for those struggling with mental ill health, low esteem, low confidence, anxiety, and depression.
So, what can we do then to support ourselves and others during this vastly different Christmas?
For many the opportunity to have some sort of structure may help, it gives us a sense of stability, it gives us direction, and helps us get out of bed in the morning. At Christmas when most people look forward to taking time off, losing a sense of structure can be a massive challenge if you are struggling with mental ill health.
It can be helpful to use mindfulness techniques such as colouring, reading, going for walks, or rediscovering previous hobbies and passions to help release those endorphins and make us feel good.
There are, in fact, specific steps you can make to have a happier, more meaningful Christmas this year and here are some ways you could make a difference:
- Serve someone - Sadness is inward-looking, service is its opposite. By making someone else’s life better, watch what happens to yours. Joy will start to replace sorrow, meaning and purpose will begin to strive in your life.
- Celebrate the season with forgiveness - Of all the gifts we can give, perhaps the most meaningful and life-changing will be the gift of forgiveness you offer someone that has upset or offended you. You will likely benefit the most from forgiving than the person you forgive.
- Make it fun and festive - Get out the lights, put up the tree, blast the tunes, decorate, dance around the house, sing carols, pop some popcorn, watch a funny Christmas film, laugh out loud and most of all if you are alone or know someone that is why not consider using the social platform ‘Zoom’ and share in a game or two?
- Create a new family - If sadness overwhelms the festive period because of loss, separation or isolated due to restrictions or distance, start now to create a new family of friends to celebrate Christmas with, join a virtual online club or volunteer to participate in special projects and get to know local likeminded people.
- Do what you love - Sometimes when you feel down, we can find it very hard to change how we feel, instead rekindle in what we love; paint, run, sing, dance or find the inner child and learn to play again.
- Become the neighbours secret Santa - Bake some cookies, buy some gift-cards, share a gift, and start to secretly make your neighbours day. Put a plate of cookies on a doorstep or put Christmas cards on the windscreen (being careful of course).
- List all the things that are wonderful in your life - Take time to write down all that is good in our life, this can help us paint a picture of the positives and feel good and grateful about our life.
- Get up, get dressed, get out - Some of the symptoms of depression include oversleeping, staying in bed, undressed, un-showed, and generally unmotivated. When we're down, we do not get up and dressed, often feeling worse and experiencing lower moods. Therefore, we must stop the cycle getting up, having a shower, putting on your glad rags and going out for a walk.
- Put yourself on Santa’s nice list - As you are out doing good to others, spreading Christmas cheer, spread some to yourself as well, buy yourself a gift, make it meaningful and enjoy it.
- Try an online festive workshop or host a zoom craft party - Why not try being creative and booking onto an online festive workshop, this is an opportunity to make something new and share in activity with others, or even try hosting one yourself.
By Andy Holter, Funeral Director and Wellbeing Trainer