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Christmas and pandemics: Times for love and anger

Now that government has decided how the festival season is to be celebrated are we any clearer? In some area’s pubs may open but cannot sell alcohol, in some regions up to three families can meet but for one day, others cannot. Lockdowns 1 and 2 have affected almost everyone in very many different ways. There is a long way to go before a return to normality — said the health secretary just yesterday.

I have already discussed in previous InSPIre the Mind blogs lessons that Covid-19 can teach us, as well as positive things that could emerge from the pandemic.

How is Christmas going to be with the pandemics, and what do we need to do?

The relationships are fraying, or are they?

In two online surveys by Open University in the UK and the USA with over 1500 respondents from the USA and over 1300 from the UK, surprising finding was that in 44% of individuals their relationships had improved.

Interestingly this improvement is reported by American men. A quarter of the men and women in the UK reported improvement and only a third of American women reported improvement in their relationships. It would appear that many people were able to take advantage of the changed situation — which may have improved their communication. It is certainly possible that they realised that the good aspects of relationship were the core of attracting them to each other and therefore strengthening their communication and thus relationship.

It appeared that in both samples, more people were talking more with their partners spending more quality time together and were more demonstrative in their affection towards each other and also more likely to demonstrate affection with thoughtful gestures. Of course being locked down in a pandemic may well have been frightening for some couples bringing home the message of risks, danger and mortality which may have led to re-prioritising to a degree to coming together and giving each other more emotional support.

At the same time during the same period, other surveys have shown a dramatic increase in domestic inter-personal violence against women in particular in many countries around the globe. Although men may say that they are helping more around the house but their role in being with their children and parenting has shown a mixed picture in this survey.

Interestingly, around half of Americans, over half of UK women, and three-quarters of UK men, don’t seek advice from anyone regarding relationship issues. This is not surprising for a number of reasons.

Firstly in general there are difficulties in acknowledging that there are problems, secondly in the middle of lockdown it may well have been problematic in knowing where to seek help from. Linking this with male patterns of help-seeking and stigma may have deterred people from seeking help.

Again not surprisingly, among those who do seek advice, friends and family are the most common source. 11% of Americans and 4% of British respondents seek advice from a therapist or counsellor.

Christmas has always been seen as a stressful time with families cooped together. This year it is likely to be perhaps even more so as almost the whole year’s pressures are coming together.

The good news is that vaccines are becoming available and some individuals may well have already received their first dose. Secondly, for those who are able to come together for the day in the face of horrendous virus and year, it may generate a degree of positivity and appreciating families a bit better.

Couples need to spend quality time together and support each other and both partners need to have clearly agreed responsibilities during the holiday period. In the couple clinic, a common strategy used to be to spend half an hour per day aside to discuss various things and if there were tensions, this was the allocated time to share those feelings and not allowing those to spill over rest of the time.

In addition, looking forward to sharing celebrations will help lift the mood.

In order to survive Christmas, one must:

1. Make sure that safety is paramount

2. Sharing positive messages and lessons from the lockdowns will be helpful

3. Spending time together in pleasurable activities

4. Appreciating positive aspects of relationships and family

5. Create transition times during the day

6. Have a structure to the day

7. Focus on positives and acknowledge the negatives but put these in perspective

8. Connect to your senses be they visual, olfactory or sensual

9. Avoid too much time watching the news.

10. Remember that there are things that you cannot change and there are things you can so focus on the latter, if need be

11. Reach out to friends and family 1:1

As the good book says: this too shall pass.

Have a wonderful joyous season and very merry Christmas.



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