If you happened to glance at the telly over the weekend (or your laptop or phone), it’s likely you may have felt a wave of despair.
Many people in the UK have had their Christmas plans effectively cancelled for 2020 thanks to a new mutation of coronavirus and attempts to keep it under control.
London, the South East and the East of England have all moved into ‘Tier 4’ - a new addition to the tier system which asks people to stay at home and no longer mix households even on Christmas Day.
This means many will have suddenly learned they will be spending Christmas solo or not how they planned, which can take a toll on mental health.
“Feelings of anger, sadness and frustration will be paramount,” psychologist Lee Chambers tells Yahoo UK.
“We have dealt with adversity and uncertainty this year, and Christmas is a massive psychological anchor that generates anticipation and excitement.
“This has been amplified by the messaging of loosening controls for Christmas, only to now be told they are being tightened, completely removing the foundations of any planning made.”
Watch: 5 top tips to boost your mental health
Counselling Directory member Shona Macpherson adds that it’s natural to be feeling sad and disappointed.
“You may feel like hiding away in bed until the whole season has passed. You may feel like numbing the feelings through eating or drinking them away. Or you may be frantically trying to work out a solution, a way to ‘fix’ things. It’s not unusual to feel more tired and short tempered than normal,” says Macpherson.
“It’s important to know that these emotions and urges are normal responses to difficult circumstances.”
However, there are ways to pick up your mood even if you’re not celebrating Christmas how you originally planned.
Focus on the good
“Look for the silver lining,” psychotherapist Toby Ingham says. “You are not ill, you are not in hospital, and by doing this you are helping protect yourself, other people and the NHS.”
Chambers recommends looking at the changes in tiers from a different frame of mind.
“It is always good to look at things from a different perspective,” he adds. “Rather than looking at what you are missing, start to focus on what you have that you can be grateful for, and think about how the restrictions will protect others, stop the spreading and help us recover faster as a nation.”
Allow yourself to feel all your emotions
“It’s okay to feel negative emotions and feel disappointed: Don’t beat yourself up for feeling this way, given the challenges we have faced this year and the continued mixed messages, it’s natural to feel this way about Christmas not being the way we planned or imagined,” Chambers says.
“By being kind and compassionate to ourselves, it helps us to express these negative emotions and create space to enjoy the things we can do, rather than worry about the things that are out of our control.”
Think about what matters most to you
“Consider what matters most to you this Christmas season, how can you live these values in a different way?” Macpherson says.
“For example, if it’s connection with those you love, how can you connect in a different way? If it’s making it magical for the children, how can you do that creatively in this situation?”
Focus on self-care
“Our emotional balance is being tested in the turbulence we are facing, but if we can ensure we keep looking after ourselves, sleeping well, eating nutritious foods (mostly!) and finding ways to move our bodies, our mental state will be more positive, and we will feel ready to face a different Christmas,” Chambers says.
“A big part of the joy of Christmas is the planning itself, so get back into planning mode and create a day your way. Blasting Christmas music or the whole tub of Roses for yourself?
“Or maybe do something that you enjoy that isn’t something you could normally do at Christmas. Looking at what we can do helps us see more to be hopeful and optimistic about.”
Make sure you keep up social contact
“Use technology to keep Christmas traditions alive, and make an intentional effort to speak to everyone who you usually would over Christmas, even if it’s by phone,” Chambers advises.
“Talk to the people who you had plans with, they will be feeling the same as you and be understanding that this is out of your control, and you’ll feel less guilt and resentment by expressing how you feel and understanding that many others feel the same.”
Turn on the telly
“Remember that even though you might be on your own on the day, we are all in this together,” Ingham says.
“Radio, TV, and news channels will be paying a lot of attention to how we are all doing on the day. Try to join in, listen to the stories. Watch comedies, things that make you smile.”
Consider celebrating Christmas at a later date
Chambers suggests: “While it’s a leftfield idea, perhaps you can delay your planned Christmas festivities until you can meet as planned, exchange presents and eat indulgent food together. This is not a possibility for everybody, but it will give you something lovely to look forward to once restrictions relax again.”