With Christmas just over a week away, it feels as if we are hurtling towards the end of 2021. And while the festive season is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, we’re hardly feeling the holiday spirit. Pre-pandemic, Christmas was all about spending time with loved ones, eating comforting food, donning your sparkliest outfit for a party and staying hopeful that, perhaps, this would be the year snow falls on Christmas Day.
In 2020, a snap lockdown meant that many of us couldn’t spend Christmas the way we would have liked – so surely we should be celebrating the prospect of our upcoming gatherings? With the majority of people double – if not triple – jabbed and the green light given for Christmas Day, why then do festivities this year feel so flat?
We can only think of one reason: Omicron. The rapidly spreading new variant has already caused the government to urge people to work from home again and many of us have caught Covid ourselves or know someone (who knows someone) who’s got it. Christmas parties require negative lateral flow tests to enter and, even if we do go, do we really want to be crammed into a room with so many other people? We’re tired, too. Tired of living through a pandemic, tired of the whiplash every time rules change and tired of being so vigilant about not getting Covid in the lead-up to Christmas just so we can spend the day with loved ones instead of in self-isolation.
That’s why our hesitancy about catching Covid means it’s OK (really!) to cancel your Christmas plans this year. A sweet relief often reserved for the introverts among us, cancelling plans can make you feel a lot better – especially if you’re feeling anxious about the situation. Cancelling plans can come with a side of guilt but this needs to be absolved. Last year, we had the excuse of an impending lockdown to help us say “no” to festive plans. So this year, without the same excuse, we must let ourselves handle this tricky time as we see fit and not feel guilty for doing so.
“Last year people were incredibly resilient and adapted in all sorts of ways to celebrate Christmas,” Professor Vivian Hill, a chartered member of the British Psychological Society, tells The Independent. “With uncertainty still around this year’s festivities, it’s actually a good time to look to evolve our Christmas traditions, just like we always have, to find safe ways to celebrate that people are comfortable with, and avoid anyone feeling anxious or lonely.
“While we all wish that Covid-19 was not impacting our Christmas again this year, it can actually mean we focus on genuine, authentic interactions with people, rather than fulfilling a social myth of what Christmas is supposed to be like.”
Hill says that rather than seeing this festive season as a bunch of social engagements that we can’t do, we should be creative about what we can do. So if you’re putting off attending any social engagements to spend Christmas with your grandparents this year, celebrate this instead of mourning the events you can’t attend. Or, instead of attending a Christmas party, hold smaller celebrations with the people you love the most. Go on a lunch date with your colleague, meet your friend for a walk or have a couple of pals over for mulled wine. “This is not only safer,” Hill adds, “but it also avoids people being left out or lonely, or feeling like a burden. It also helps if you are feeling anxious about socialising and meeting in large groups.”
Be kind to yourself this Christmas. If you’re feeling anxious then cancel that holiday catch-up, say “no” to the winter wedding invite and be sure to connect with people through the myriad of online platforms available. We’re living through strange times – there’ll always be another Christmas party to go to next year.
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