End of year Christmas holidays are usually a chance to gather with friends and family, eat an abundant meal and catch up on the past year. However, the pandemic has roiled such plans for a lot of people and threatens to worsen an already dire mental health predicament in Hong Kong since last year. A great number of the them feel like they are facing a pared-down Christmas. The hope of getting family together at Christmas has been like a pipe dream.
The restrictions could worsen the mental health crisis due to Covid. Isolation is a key factor in this, many people are facing the bleak anticipation of spending the lonely holiday. Many may have even lost their relatives and loved ones. For many parents, they stressed about their job security or managing their kids’ virtual schooling, worried about losing Christmas traditions for their families. While, many others are going through financial hardship, no income to support their family and themselves, but many people do not ask for help as much.
Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings
In this tough time, we normally feel sad or anxious. We all have to cut ourselves slack for these shared experiences we are having. Silently and kindly acknowledge whatever it showing up inside you – thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories, sensation, urges with curiosity. Notice what is going on in your inner world. You might say to yourself “I am noticing feelings of anxiety” or “I am having thoughts about losing my job” or “I am having feelings of loneliness” as you continue acknowledging your thoughts and feelings.
Experience that sense of grief or disappointment or other difficult feelings you may have. Having negative feelings are inevitable when we face a crisis of any sort. As this crisis unfold, we will feel fear and anxiety, anger, sadness, guilt and loneliness and so on. We cannot stop these painful feelings arising, but we can open up and make room for them. Acknowledge they are normal, they are normal natural responses to any challenging situation infused with danger and uncertainty. Making rooms for those difficult feelings and thoughts, being kind to ourselves. Allow them to be there even though they hurt. Treat ourselves kindly, consider what a kind word and say to yourself and kind thing you can do to yourself to help you cope with this suffering.
Focus on what’s in your control
You cannot control what will happen in the future; you cannot control coronavirus itself or the world economy or what other people do; you cannot magically control your thoughts and feelings – fear, anxiety and worry are inevitable, but you can control what you do here and now.
Hopes for a Christmas with family and friends hang in the balance, but some are already taking matters into their own hands and rearranging their plans, e.g. hosting a “Zoom Christmas” with their extended families; preparing to carve their Christmas turkeys over videotelephony; having carol concerts by video calls. They are focusing on what they can do in the current circumstance by using their flexibility and creativity to come up with alternative ways to find the joy in the digital Yuletide. They are making this year’s holiday special despite the disruption.
Values and Committed Action
Committed actions should be guided by your core values. What do you want to stand for in the face this crisis? What sort of person do you want to be as you go through this? How do you want to treat yourself and others? Your values might include Love, Respect, Appreciation, Patience, Courage, Honesty, Caring, Openness, Kindness, Compassion or numerous others. Look for ways to sprinkle your values into your day. Let them guide and motivate your actions. Those are the actions you take because they are important to you, even if they may bring up difficult thoughts and feelings. Of course they include following the official guidelines on what to do during this crisis, but in addition, ask yourself “What else can I do right now?”.
With the pandemic, many of us are working from home. Some workplaces organized virtual social events in the yearend holiday season to show their appreciation for the work their employees have been doing throughout this tough year and keep their spirits up. These virtual gatherings make Christmas more meaningful, as a time for giving thanks and encouragement.
With so many families in need due to economic impacts caused by the coronavirus, many charities are getting a kickoff on festive donations to ensure they have enough resources to help. Some have started their ‘Rescue Christmas’ fundraising early by reaching out to donors, community partners and grocery stores in order to help those needy in this season of loss.
We can also take initiative to reach out and connect with those we care about by simply giving them a call, checking in on them and offering our ears to show our empathy, patience and caring to support each other in this lonely holiday.
Of course, not to forget showing self-compassion to yourself. Treat yourself with the same warmth, caring and kindness that you would extend to someone you love if they were in similar pain. Ask yourself ‘What would I say to a friend who are experiencing the same difficult situation?’. We can also use kind self-touch, such as placing a hand gently on our heart or on top of a painful feeling, and sending warmth and caring inwards through the palm.
No matter how small it may be that help us face the challenges over this Christmas for yourself and other whom you care or people in my community, do it and engage in it fully.