Christmas Cheer or Christmas Conflict? How to Make the Most of This Covid Christmas

With the announcement of the new tiers coming into effect on 3rd December and the new rules around mixing of families for Christmas, many of us are feeling more festive stress than ever. Psychotherapist Noel McDermott is encouraging the nation to treat this year as a one off, create a simple set of rules about what you plan to do, apply these across the board and ensure you are clear about your needs and wants. Accept that not everyone is going to be happy with your decisions and look at planning family celebrations for next year when we have the roll out of the vaccine, there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel.

Adding more choice into the equation for this year while we still have the decisions around our health creates more complex decisions and putting in place boundaries that others may not agree with. We have entered yet another transitional period as we begin the move out of the threat of the virus due to the vaccines. It’s clear without that this our government would not have risked the level of social mixing they are for this year’s Christmas.

Many people will be faced with making difficult choices and even more difficult conversations with loved ones about how they want to organise their Christmas this year. The Christmas bubble of up to three families really doesn’t allow for a normal Christmas with several families mixing in most households, especially if you consider Christmas Day and Boxing Day traditions of large gatherings.

So how do you have those conversations with family and friends about your plans and wishes for this Christmas? Here psychotherapist Noel McDermott offers ways to handle this:

  • Contextualise and look at the big picture; it’s clear now that by summer next year the vaccines will have this virus under control and whilst we are unlikely ever to ‘go back to normal’ we certainly will be out of the social distancing restrictions. this needs to be the basis of your planning and conversations with others. There will be plenty of time next year to get together and in the meantime remaining healthy is the priority.
  • Let go of fear; we have all been holding onto fear of losing our loved ones to this illness, and now, whilst sadly some will still die, the vaccines will save lives. So, this is not the possible ‘last Christmas’ your fear tells you. It is the only and last Christmas where we have to bow to the virus. If we stay safe for this one, then we’ve done it.
  • Look at your needs and wants honestly; Christmas is always a time when we are faced with these stressful decisions about who to see, and this year it has been complicated further by the virus. This division of time is not new to us, the golden rule is, know what you want, then go get it!
  • Communicate clearly; Be assertive and clear about what you want and why. Don’t leave a vacuum into which people can put their insecurities. Have the conversation about Christmas now, get it out in the open. The more we avoid a difficult topic, the more difficult it becomes.
  • Deal with conflict when it arises using CALM (Communication, Assertiveness, Look, Measured tone); talk, be clear about your own needs and respect the needs of others, keep eye contact, lower your voice and relax your body tone.
  • Stick to your guns: hold your boundaries and don’t make compromises that make you feel shamed or less than.
  • See the opportunities: It’s possible for you to make changes to your Christmas plans under cover of the virus this year which you have always been meaning to do but felt afraid of.
  • Look at the virtual alternatives: We all live much more in the virtual online world now and you can bring this into your Christmas this year. We have the opportunity now to connect in many ways and actually we can bring many more people into our Christmas Day should we wish. If you have friends and family in far flung places no one is going to bat an eye if you suggest Zooming or Skyping them in. So, flip this one and have fun with it!

Psychotherapist Noel McDermott comments: “Make this Christmas unique, look at making great memories to treasure of how creative you were in the midst   of the pandemic. This Christmas can be one to remember, and I’m sure it will be, but let’s make sure we remember it for the right reasons. How we overcame, rather than how we went under.”

Noel McDermott is a Psychotherapist with over 25 years’ experience in health, social care, and education. He is the founder and CEO of three organisations, Psychotherapy and Consultancy Ltd, Sober Help Ltd and Mental HealthWorks Ltd. Noel’s company offer at-home mental health care and will source, identify and co-ordinate personalised care teams for the individual. They have recently launched a range of online therapy resources in order to help clients access help without leaving home – 

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