As the country looks set to emerge from Level 5 this week, many of us are wondering what the next few weeks will bring for Christmas. Easing of restrictions generates Hope for a return to the normal Christmas season. But while the pandemic continues Christmas plans remain uncertain, and we need to prepare ourselves for what will surely be a novel Christmas.

Week One of Advent invites us to be Hopeful. Hope is an important emotion because it can remind us that feelings of disappointment, sadness, and overwhelm won’t last forever. The positivity that hope brings can help us regain perspective when we might feel a little lost. 

So in the midst of uncertainty and change this week, here are some tips to help keep Hope in mind, while also supporting our mental and emotional wellbeing:

Make Realistic Plans

Hope can get us through the toughest of times, but false hope – belief in something we want to happen but is just not possible right now – can leave us open to stresses and disappointment.  This will be a novel Christmas, and it is important to set realistic expectations for ourselves.

Being realistic might mean acknowledging that some traditional Christmas rituals may not be possible, some loved ones might not be able to travel this year, and the expected seasonal joy and cheer might be late to arrive.  This doesn’t mean we can’t hope that our loved ones stay safe, connect with the spirit of Christmas in other ways, and look forward to a time when we can celebrate together again. 

Re-evaluating our expectations, acknowledging limitations, and setting achievable goals can help to reframe our thinking.  There will likely be some disappointments but by alleviating unnecessary stressful pressures this Christmas we still make treasured memories. 

Connect with what’s available to you right now

Resisting the temptation to make comparisons with ‘normal’ years can be hard.  That doesn’t mean we need to lose focus on what we have available to us. It’s only natural to wander down the path of regret and comparison, as long we can find our way back to the present moment.  

Connecting with ourselves, and others is going to be really important this Christmas.  We can do this in simple ways.  Instead of focusing on what’s missing, look to connect with the seasonal favourites we can enjoy in these weeks.  

This might include listening to a favourite Christmas Carol or Song, the smell of warm Mince Pies, or the crisp Winter air walking outdoors.  

Connecting with others this Christmas, perhaps hearing the sound of a loved one’s voice on the phone, or checking in with vulnerable or less socially able friends, neighbours, and relations, can do them and us the world of good. 

These simple but meaningful connections can help to balance our emotions, making things feel more manageable, and bring a little moment of Joy. 

Look forward with Hope

Our mental and emotional wellbeing benefits when we have something to look forward to.  Restrictions this year have made this more difficult.  

Even though the usual outlets may not be available to us this year, it is important to connect with a feeling of Hope that we will have the opportunity to make new memories and experiences in the future. This Christmas shouldn’t be a time of regret, but a positive bridge to a more hopeful new year in 2021.

Looking ahead helps to remind us that time healschallenges are not permanent, and difficult feelings will pass. 

A final thought…

Christmas can be an emotional time of year, bringing up a mix of positive and difficult emotions, and this year even more so. Setting realistic expectations for ourselves this Christmas, connecting with the positives in the present moment, and looking forward to the future can help us to strike an emotional balance between the past, present, and remain hopeful for the future. 

-This post featured as an article in The Midland Tribune on 3rd December 2020.