In general, many of us can feel overwhelmed, unprepared, or emotional as the Christmas season approaches. For some, this is even more exaggerated this year as we are still navigating our way through a global pandemic. With Covid-19, this year some people will not be able to travel to see family, others will have to spend the holidays alone and others may have safety concerns with family members visiting their house over the festive season.
We’ve compiled some tips for you based on positive psychology, which is part of our wellbeing courses. We hope this helps to reduce your stress and enable you to make the most of your precious time off work:
1) Gratitude: Consider what positives there may have been in 2020 – exercise, time in nature, learning new skills, kindness, and solidarity as well as a slower pace of life. All of us found a level of resilience that we were not even aware that we had! These factors can help to mitigate against the potentially adverse psychological impact of the pandemic.
2) Flow: try to make some time for those activities which make you feel “in flow”, I.e., something where you feel completed engrossed. Read a good book. Save up some feel-good movies and shows to binge on and take your mind off things for a while. Go outside. Go for a walk. Go for a morning swim on the 25th of December! Get some fresh air and exercise. Find some way to connect with nature, if possible. Being near trees and water help refresh and restore us and are an important part of keeping your balance during challenging times.
3) Connection: If you can’t travel to family and friends or you are missing someone who can’t be there, create a list of loved ones to call or video chat with over the holidays and set dates and times with them. Be direct about your need for distraction and to feel connected because you are feeling down about spending the holidays without them.
Christmas can bring up a lot of emotions for people, not all positive. You can’t control others, but you can make a conscious effort to smile, laugh and tell positive stories from throughout the year or relive positive memories from times gone by.
4) Practice mindfulness: more time to think over Christmas may result in rumination (thinking about the past) or worrying about the future. Try being present and focusing on the here & now. This can often be easier said than done, especially you are in a different or less than ideal situation compared to other years. Taking a few deep breaths can help calm the nervous system and bring you back to the present.
5) Change your thinking: our thoughts and beliefs can be automatic and often negative, especially when we are thrown together with family members or friends that trigger us. When this happens, pause and ask yourself if what you are saying to yourself is really true. If it’s not true or helpful, try and find an alternative viewpoint.
It’s easy to make a bad situation worse with your thinking. Instead of thinking, “This is terrible,” or, “I can’t cope,” try talking to yourself like your own best friend. When talking to a friend we might say something like, “It’s just another day, you can do it,” or “You can cope with this. You’ve handled much tougher situations than this.
6) Self-care: find what works for you and make it part of your routine, e.g., exercise, sleep, nutrition, mindfulness and avoiding excessive alcohol or drug use.
7) Limit your media consumption. Set limits on your media consumption and phone use and cut through misinformation by checking out news with trusted and verifiable sources.
Use social media wisely. Looking at other people’s happy holiday photos can bring you down at the best of times. However, the upside of social media is being able to connect with friends who are far away. If you can take the good and ignore the bad, then, by all means, use social media to feel less alone over the holidays.
8) Practice compassion: if you are putting a lot of pressure on yourself over the festive season, the “internal critic” can often start telling you that you are not good enough. To counter this, try and change the script to something more helpful like “I can only do so much” or “I can only be in one place at a time.” It is also useful to ask yourself if there is anyone you can ask for help if you are finding that you have too much on your plate.
9) Setting goals: as we are approaching a new year, it can be useful to visualise what you want to achieve for the following year. These can be goals for yourself, your family or your classroom. When setting these, don’t forget to acknowledge all of the small steps along the way!
10) Embrace Spirituality: this is not necessarily about religion; it is whatever brings meaning to you. This could be connecting with your loved ones over the festive period. Getting out in nature is another way to create connection as is considering all the small things you can do to help the environment.
Focus on helping others. Look for organizations in your community that have safe volunteer opportunities. Deliver meals to the elderly or hampers to families in need. Perhaps chat with someone who is also spending the holidays alone. Helping others is one of the best ways to improve your own mood and share some real holiday spirit.
If you would like to learn more about positive psychology, our CPD courses have four terms each year, Spring, May/June, Summer & Autumn. Find out more here.