Christmas in Covid times

How to make the most of Christmas in Covid times

8 December 2020

There’s no doubt about it, Christmas is going to be different this time. Whether you usually love it or loathe it, you may find yourself feeling differently about Christmas this year.

A difficult year

It’s been a year when we have all had to cope with a lot of change and uncertainty. Now, we’re also having to deal with a change to our Christmas and New Year celebrations.

The pandemic has been hard for everyone. Living with uncertainty over a long period can feel stressful and tiring. Many of us, may also be worrying about what next year will bring. Added to that, we may be feeling disappointed and upset as our familiar celebrations are not what we would’ve hoped.

Christmas gives time to relax and reflect

christmas with covid can be hard

As the days get shorter and the nights longer and darker, Christmas and New Year is usually when we take a break from our busy lives. It’s an opportunity to take time off and be at home more. It usually gives us a chance to pause and reflect on the year while we’re with those we care about. Many of us have already had nine months at home and we’ve seen our worlds get much smaller. Now, the thought of more time at home may be the last thing we want.

Unrealistic expectations at Christmas

Christmas is a time when we often place unrealistic expectations upon ourselves to create the perfect day. This year, like always, the media bombards us with images of perfect families having perfect Christmas’. There’s lots of talk about how Christmas is going to be different this year. And it’s hard not to compare ourselves to the ideal Christmas’ we see, even though we’re in the middle of a pandemic.

These images, that we are seeing daily, are often far from the reality for most of us. This piles extra pressure on us for our own Christmases. It’s made even harder as restrictions and worry makes it especially difficult.

The comfort of the familiar

Many of us take comfort in the familiarity of traditions. We enjoy planning the celebrations we are going to have with out friends and families. Not being able to do that, after such a difficult year, may leave us feeling disappointed and upset.

We may also be dealing with friends or family having different views about following health or travel guidelines this Christmas. This can be very difficult, especially if we’re expected to do things which make us feel uneasy.

Christmas isn’t always easy

People dealing with bereavement, divorce or job losses at Christmas can feel more isolated and alone by the pressure to be happy at this time of year. For those who have suffered a loss this year, the celebrations can act as a painful reminder.

It could be the loss of loved ones lost to Covid or other illnesses. Or, the loss of a business or job. It may be a sense of loss from not being able to have holidays, or having to cancel weddings and other celebrations.

Financial worries

For many of us, money may also feel tighter than usual this year. It could be because of redundancy or worries about how the pandemic may affect our income and finances. We may also feel pressure to spend more to make up for not being able to see those we care about. Or we may see spending more as a way to make our loved ones feel better about the things they’ve have missed this year.

There are ways to make Christmas more enjoyable this year. Here are some simple strategies for having a better Christmas.

coping with covid christmas

Think about the Christmas you want

Trying to achieve the unachievable can leave you feeling guilty, frustrated and disheartened. Allowing your Christmas to be imperfect, can immediately make it more enjoyable.

Think about what you value about Christmas and focus on that. Use your values as the basis for your Christmas rather than other people’s idea of how it should be.

There are more ideas here

Go outside, get walking

Try and get outside. It helps to air your rooms and gives you a an energy boost.

Being active helps the brain to release chemicals to help you feel better. Norepinephrine helps to activate attention and motivation; serotonin improves your mood and dopamine to enhance your sense of contentment and reward. Exercise has also been found to increase resilience to stress. When muscles are used they release hormones into the blood stream that make you braver and lift your spirits.

Try mindful breathing

Mindful breathing can help if you are feeling overloaded with Christmas stress. Put aside a few minutes each day to focus on your breathing. Find somewhere comfortable to sit and concentrate on breathing in and breathing out. Try and think only about the present moment. Notice what is happening in each instant. If your mind wanders to the past or future, just allow your thoughts to come and go without getting caught up in them. Keep bringing your attention back to your breathing.

When you consciously breathe in deeply it triggers your body’s relaxation response. This can help during particularly stressful moments.

Check out How to Relax in Just Five Minutes a Day for a quick and simple breathing exercise to help you.

Have a plan

A little bit of planning can help to avoid a stressful last-minute rush. Give yourself a time budget for shopping, decorations and other preparations. Make sure you stick to it so you have time for other activities. Have a financial budget too, so you’re not facing money worries in January.

Do something different

If you can’t be with the people you care about this year, you can find other ways to let them know you are thinking about this. For instance, you could send a heartfelt, handwritten note.

Try and avoid worrying

Worry affects the body’s nervous, immune and hormonal systems. As the body tries to cope with overload, it releases cortisol, the stress hormone. At the same time, serotonin, which protects us from depression and anxiety, falls. Both of these leave us with feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, fatigue and even despair.

Instead of focusing on your worries, try to allow yourself to stay in the present moment. Let go of thinking about what possibly may or may not happen in the future, or your previous Christmases. Rather, try to allow yourself to release unhelpful thoughts or feelings as much as possible. Instead try and focus on the Christmas you’re having right now. For more, check out

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