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How to mind your mind this very unusual Christmas


by Amanda Cassidy
13th Dec 2020

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. But not exactly. Amanda Cassidy speaks to behavioural therapist Yvonne Barnes-Homles about how to mind your mental health this very different Christmas.


A friend of mine gets sick every Christmas – on that no man’s land, the week between Christmas and New Years’. She swears it is because she finally stops and rests after the mayhem in the lead-up to the 25th. She believes that her body finally surrenders to all the bugs and sniffles she’s been fighting off for the weeks preceding.

This year, our lead-in time has been extraordinarily long. You could say we’ve been hyper-focusing on getting to the end of 2020 for months. And maintaining our health at times like this is now more important than ever.

As well as being a light in the recent dark pandemic months, Christmas is also going to be a lot different to the years we’ve known before. Our usual traditions (12 pubs, huge gatherings, the panto, school Christmas play) have been cancelled, pared-back, shelved for now. Many of us will spend Christmas without those we love for various reasons – too far away, too risky, too vulnerable.

Minding our mind has been the theme of the second half of this year. The pandemic has obliterated our work-routines, our social lives, and even the ability to feel safe outside our home. That will have a huge knock-on effect for all of us – the tsunami of sadness is really only starting to show.

But Christmas is always bittersweet. And for some, it is a lonely and difficult time. Covid has resulted in a different type of Christmas – one with limitations. It won’t be the end of year celebration that we were all hoping for.

We spoke to Yvonne Barnes-Homles of Perspectives Ireland, a behavioural therapist with over 20 years of experience. We asked her to give us some advice on how to approach this year’s celebrations with a new strategy – one which focuses on our mental health.

The 12 Days of You

“Christmas usually means doing things for other people” point out Yvonne. “How many Christmases have you been drowning in worries about gifts, schedules and keeping everyone else happy? This year, a different kind of Christmas gives you extra time to do things for you. You have had a long year too, make this Christmas a YOU Christmas.

Write yourself a Christmas list and make sure to tick something off that list every day. Take extra time to relax. Watch your favourite movies. Have a PJ day. Spend a whole day outdoors. Whatever you do, do it for you. When we connect with ourselves and the things we enjoy, we are investing in our mental health in a positive way. We increase our self-worth and that makes us feel more fulfilled.”

Even if this year you are not able to see the people most special to you, make it a priority to see those you can.

 Connect to Someone Special

Yvonne says that connecting is key for Xmas 2020, but it doesn’t have to be in person. “What makes Christmas special is that it gives you opportunities to connect even more to others. This year will be different so making sure we connect is even more important. For you, that someone special might be your partner, your children, your siblings, your parents, your best friend, or even your neighbour.

Everyone needs someone to make each other feel special and connected. So, even if this year you are not able to see the people most special to you, make it a priority to see those you can. Make every day of Christmas a day of connecting with someone else. Leave a gift at a neighbour’s door.

Arrange to open your presents with family over Zoom. See the people in your bubble as much as you can. When we connect with someone, we feel supported and cared for. Connecting to someone special makes us feel special too.”

 Connect to Your Surroundings

“Of course this year we will be missing the usual places we go. So, it’s even more important to get connected to the places we can go. This could be your home, your garden, your local walk, your neighbourhood, or even your Christmas decorations.

When we feel connected to our surroundings, it creates space between us and what’s going on in our lives. Make that space as big as possible by really getting connected as much as possible to your surroundings.”

Image via Unsplash.com 

Read more: The end of the pandemic is in sight – here’s to the new Roaring 20s

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