ELAINE BOND: It is time to cut ourselves some slack and lower our expectations when it comes to Christmas

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Christmas means different things to different people, but this year it will be very different and difficult for all of us. From the rule of six to the tier three lockdown, it remains unclear as to how we can celebrate and who with.

It has been a long hard year like no other and winter does not make that any easier with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and the general low feelings that comes with short dull days and being cold and damp. Christmas is something we either dread or look forward and that has been changed for us by Covid 19. Added to this we have furlough, job losses and financial strain, so Christmas will be a troubled time for many of us.

This year, more than ever, we all need to take care of our mental health and revaluate what matters to us the most in life.

This Christmas we cannot make the perfect experience as seen on the TV adverts, not that we ever could!  We cannot reach out to all the people we would do normally. We have to follow the rule of six on Christmas day so how do we decide who they will be. It is time to cut ourselves a bit of slack and lower our expectations.

Elaine-Bond
PICTURED: Elaine Bond is a counsellor based in Gedling

We need to look at who we simply cannot be without to celebrate Christmas, and understand that we may not receive our usual invites over the Christmas period. If there was no Covid we all know we would be celebrating with the people, we love but we this year we have to remember we have survived a year of a major life changing pandemic.

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That also means if we don’t create the perfect Christmas for the people we can share it with it does not matter., It also means that maybe the presents aren’t as expensive as they were last year, the food is ready made, the cake is bought or there are no party games this year. We need to silence the critic and remember we are all survivors this year.

Family traditions will change this year, as the Christmas Eve party, the Boxing day buffet and the fabulous New Year’s Eve parties that my friend used to hold cannot happen. But we can have a virtual gathering and create new traditions, such as games night on Zoom, mulled wine on WhatsApp and seeing in the New Year over Skype.

As I have said before, limiting the amount of news we watch is important for our mental health during the pandemic. This is even more important at Christmas as normal conversations about politics, vaccines and the tier systems in place can quickly escalate to arguments. We are stuck together with no distractions and nowhere to go so this can get out of hand when you add alcohol to the mix. Don’t forget we are all exhausted and have heightened anxiety so taking care to temper our debates at Christmas will help.

Of course, Christmas brings us reminders of those people we have lost, and grief becomes acute, while we are expected to be cheerful and celebrating. Many of us have lost someone or have been really ill ourselves this year. So, this year more than ever its times to reflect on and celebrate the lives of those we have lost and our own well-being.

Perhaps feeling like you have given something back can help us this Christmas, such as make a donation to a charity or a food bank, tip the delivery driver or leave the postman a card saying thanks. Reach out virtually to someone you know will be alone this Christmas or even take them some mince pies round.

Finally, some of us will be alone at Christmas and it can be really lonely time. We need to have a think about what we want to do before hand and that may be a good book or a movie.

Remember it is just two days of the year and they will soon pass.

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Whatever you do have a happy Christmas and a peaceful new year and hopefully life will return to normality soon.

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