While many of us are looking forward to Christmas and New Year holidays, for others the festive season can be overwhelming whether you’re busy with social engagements, or feeling the sting of loneliness or loss.
For most people, 2020 has been a year of unprecedented challenges. The fires and floods early in the year left many people emotionally, financially or physically devastated, and the coronavirus caused changes to virtually every facet of our way of life and sense of the world. The turbulence of 2020 has challenged our collective sense of safety and wellbeing.
Now, as most states come gradually out of lockdown, it is possible to see a mixture of emotions among our friends and co-workers — relief and joy are mixed with ongoing nervousness about resuming many of activities that sustained us previously. Our new ‘normal’ is always feeling a little off balance, like trying to stand in a dinghy on rough seas, and not knowing when the storm will pass.
In the early months of 2020, people used what psychologist Ann Masten calls “surge capacity.” This is a “collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans draw on for short term survival in stressful situations. But the Covid disaster has stretched all year, will continue for some time and has shown us the limits of our personal ‘surge capacity’. When it is depleted it needs to be renewed.
If you feel a bit ‘grinchy’ and want to skip out on the fuss of Christmas this year — don’t worry, you’re not alone. A lot of people are feeling that way. It’s okay to keep things low key. Don’t punish or denigrate yourself for not feeling as festive as you usually might.
Here are some tips to help you renew and regenerate your coping capacities over the holiday period and into the new year.
1. Expect less from yourself
Take some time to reflect on what you need in your life right now. This is (hopefully) a once in a lifetime experience, so it is unrealistic to expect that we would be managing it perfectly — that we are managing at all is an achievement.
2. Recognise that you are dealing with multiple aspects of grief
Many of the systems that support us have faltered or broken down. Recognise that you have experienced a major loss and that managing it requires a bit of patience and creativity.
3. Accept that life is different right now
Acceptance does not mean giving up, but it does mean not resisting or fighting reality so that you can spend your energy more wisely. Remember that when you cannot change a situation, the only thing you can do is change the way you think about or approach it.
4. Look for activities, new and old, that continue to fulfil you
With many of the activities we previously used to care for ourselves not readily available — or only available in forms you may find stressful — it is time to get creative about how we manage self-care. Perhaps focusing on plans for the future and what provides meaning in your life is a good place to begin. Seek inspiration through reading or online. The book The Molecule of More, or the related video featuring authors Dr Daniel Liberman and Michael Long, explores how dopamine influences our experiences and happiness, and describes the types of activities most likely to bring us joy. Check it out and brainstorm what kinds of activities might work for you.
5. Focus on maintaining and strengthening important relationships
Social support and remaining connected to people will help you face adversity and build your resilience. It can also be nourishing to help others, even when we’re feeling depleted ourselves.
Offering generosity to others can make us feel really good, and often there are small ways we can help out the people around us that we don’t even notice:
- Babysit your friend's children for a couple of hours.
- Thank your co-workers for helping you through this crazy year.
- Help the old man down the street in his garden.
- Invite the widow next door to dinner.
You are capable of bringing small joys to other people, and that will help you see the good in you. You’ll also help build or solidify the relationships that may help you through difficult times.
6. Begin slowly building your resilience bank account
Build into your life regular practices that promote resilience and provide a fallback when life gets tough. The areas to focus on are sleep, nutrition, exercise, meditation, self-compassion, gratitude, connection, and saying no. Remember to begin small and gradually build your momentum — and you don’t need to do any of this perfectly! Give yourself credit just for trying.
7. Reach out
With the closing of gambling venues many people found their lives much improved. Money previously spent on gambling could be diverted to more life affirming goals. Others however, took up online gambling in an attempt to cope with unexpected boredom through job loss or quarantine restrictions, while others gambled in the mistaken belief that gambling is a way of making money.
Whatever your experience, you might feel like you need a good chat. If you need to talk things out with another person, we’re here 24/7, 365 days a year. It doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas morning or just after midnight on New Year’s Day, our trained counsellors are here to chat. Get in touch online or give us a call on 1800 858 858, or join the members of our peer-support forum to share feelings of celebration, frustration or support.