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Planning for an unusual Christmas

Planning for an unusual Christmas

There’s no getting away from the fact that Christmas will be different this year. However you normally feel about the festive season – love it, dread it, or somewhere in between – and whatever your circumstances are, nobody yet knows what we’ll be able to do. It might not be possible to be where you want to be, or with the people you’d like to be with.

This uncertainty could lead to worrying, or a low mood, especially if you’re someone who likes to plan, or you’ve always tended to find Christmas difficult.

We don’t have any control over what’s going to happen with the coronavirus, or what kind of restrictions we’re going to be under in December. The best approach to managing our feelings and having the most enjoyable Christmas possible is to focus on the things we can control.

Accept you’ll need to be flexible. Acknowledge that we’ll all be living week by week, and you may not be able to firm up your plans till fairly late on.

Don’t put pressure on yourself. Some people may be pinning their hopes on Christmas as being a high point after a difficult year, and feeling under pressure to create the perfect day. This could lead to stress and anxiety – especially if you’re responsible for ‘making it happen’. Recognise that there’s no such thing as perfection; you might have to make difficult decisions about who to see, for example, depending on how many people are allowed to meet. Remember that sometimes simple is best, and cherishing quality time with loved ones or being able to relax can mean more than an expensive or complicated celebration.

Identify what’s important to you. Think about what your values are relating to Christmas, and what you find most fun. Is it time with the family, time off work, enjoying a great meal, choosing and giving presents? Think creatively about how you can make sure those things happen. Talk to your family in advance about their expectations, ask them how they’re feeling, and involve them in planning.

Make plans – but have a back-up! Think about how you can still realistically socialise or get together with family, if this is what matters most; maybe with a number of smaller gatherings or something virtual. If you love carol singing and church services, find out if there are any online or socially distanced services you can join. It’s a good idea to have a plan A version of the activity, and also a plan B that takes into account the possibility of stricter measures or a lockdown.

Create some new traditions. If you’ve ever wished you could do something different at Christmas, this might be your chance! Perhaps you’ve always wanted to have bangers and mash for lunch, to make your own cake or decorations, to volunteer, or to take off somewhere in the caravan (restrictions permitting)…this could be your opportunity.

If you know you might be on your own, acknowledge how this makes you feel and plan ahead to how you might want to spend the day. Don’t be tempted to hide away – book in video calls with friends and family if you’d like some contact.

Challenge any negative thoughts. It’s a good idea to stop and take note of the different emotions and thoughts you’re having. If you’re thinking “this is going to be the worst Christmas ever” or “everything will be disappointing”, for example, try to get your mind into a more balanced place. Could it actually be ok? Are there things you can still enjoy? Is there anything it will be a relief not to have to do – for example, spend lots of money, say yes to every invitation, see people you don’t get on with?

You might find our previous blog about surviving Christmas useful, or our recent blog about handling the winter blues. If you find yourself feeling really down or anxious about what Christmas will be like this year, online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) could help you find ways to cope.

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