Christmas is an inescapable date in the calendar. Love it or hate it – we can’t avoid it! Even a global pandemic cannot stop the debates on who is hosting this year and how big a turkey do we really need? And it’s true that with the ongoing uncertainty caused by COVID-19 there has been comfort in the familiar rituals, the twinkling lights and the preparations.
But, as much as the festive films on TV would love to tell us that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, we know only too well that for many families this is far from the case. Supporting a loved one who uses alcohol and drugs is difficult at any time of year but at Christmas there are so many extra pressures; to spend, to join in, to eat and drink to excess, to be jolly.
Add COVID into the mix and you have an even more challenging situation. Our Lockdown and Beyond – COVID Insights Report revealed that lockdown and the subsequent social distancing restrictions have had a devastating impact on families;
· 46% felt it had negatively impacted on their mental health.
· 42% reported feeling more anxious than before.
· 29% said they were finding it harder to keep in touch with supportive family and friends.
· 21% said they can’t access services which help them cope.
It wasn’t possible to host our usual Christmas Coffee Morning this year but it also didn’t feel right to have a Christmas celebration when so many families are struggling in this way. So we shifted the focus of our event and instead at looked at ways we can all look after ourselves at Christmas. Our message for the event, and for everyone reading this right now, is that “It is OK not to be OK at Christmas”, especially in this most difficult of years.
Our Virtual Family Support Practitioner Gill’s number one piece of coping advice was to limit time on social media. (Note to self – put away your phone, Sarah!) She reminded us that it is pointless to compare your family to the heavily edited snapshots online as you just don’t know what is going on behind the scenes.
She also shared 50 ways to take a break, with some ideas only taking a few minutes. On Christmas Day it may not be possible to take time out to have a bath but you could dance round the kitchen to your favourite song or take the dog out for a walk and get 10 minutes headspace for yourself.
We asked every guest to share one word that was bringing them hope for the coming year; time, family, love, faith and connection were all common themes. It was lovely to talk and think about hope after a year that has been so hard.
We also heard from two speakers from our local family support groups. Both women had managed to find connection, and even develop new skills, by attending Zoom support groups. It was great to hear that though we are still restricted in how we can come together physically it is still possible to come together online. Having a plan in place and a routine were their top tips for looking after yourself – and a bit of exercise always helps too. (Again, feeling like this advice is aimed straight at me!)
If you would like to find out more about what support is available in your area see our full list of services here.
We finished the morning by sharing a very moving video made by All in the Family’s Mel!
Author: Sarah Campbell, Fundraising Manager