Anne Hegerty on why she likes spending Christmas alone
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Christmas time is a lonely time of year for people who don’t have loved ones to spend the festive period with. This year, lots of Brits will be stuck self-isolating or left alone to celebrate because their friends and family have Covid. New research by social impact jewellery brand Recognised has shown that around half of Brits have felt alone and undervalued over the last year and a half, and to have another isolated Christmas could be detrimental to individuals’ mental health. Express.co.uk chatted to Behavioural Psychologist Jo Hemmings to find out how to stay positive if you are spending Christmas alone.
Christmas is the most glorified and hyped up day of the year, and yet again people in the UK are having the day spoilt by coronavirus.
With Covid cases on the rise, many Brits are facing the prospect of spending Christmas alone either by choice or circumstance.
While it can be hard to stay positive and ease the feeling of loneliness there are steps we can take to look after our mental health as Christmas Day approaches, according to psychologist Jo Hemmings.
Here are four things to do this Christmas if you have to spend it alone.
It’s clear that the last 18 months were incredibly tough for so many and the cost of the pandemic has been huge on people’s mental health, Jo said.
She explains: “This research shows we’ve all felt alone at points during the pandemic so it’s important to remember you are not alone in how you are feeling and that speaking to others can help.
“Reach out and connect with loved ones even if you are physically alone this Christmas.
“Get online at some planned point during the day – download Zoom or use another platform, take time to celebrate with friends or family. It gives you something to anticipate as well as enjoy.”
Why not prepare a quiz or catch up online with the people you aren’t able to see in person? Or simply eat your dinner with others over Facetime or Zoom.
Don’t suffer in silence, tell your friends and family (or even a therapist) how you’re feeling and let it all out.
If you are going through a tough time, the simple act of sharing your concerns – either to friends, family or even a professional – can have a positive impact on how you are feeling, Jo explained.
She said: “It reduces brain activity in the amygdala, our brain’s alarm system, and verbalising our feelings make us more mindfully aware.
“This self-disclosure, to someone we like and trust, can be deeply healing – reducing stress and strengthening our immune systems.”
You might be feeling like you want to ignore the whole day if you’re spending it alone.
However, it’s useful to think about what activities and food might make you feel better when the day comes.
Jo said: “Don’t pretend the day isn’t happening, it will make you feel more isolated.
“Make a plan for your day – have something lovely to eat, check out a festive movie you want to watch and think about it as a day of indulgence and self-care.”
This one is off-limits if you’re self-isolating with Covid, but if you’re lucky enough to be completely healthy and have no symptoms then you should step outside if you can.
Jo explained: “Whatever the weather brings, it is important to get some fresh air.
“It is mood-boosting and will help with the feelings of isolation and sadness that being alone can often bring.
“Take a walk (if you can) and if you see others, wish them a Merry Christmas, they will return the greeting, giving you a little surge of those feel-good hormones, dopamine and serotonin.
“The research also revealed that although just under half (48 per cent) feel less alone when they hear people share the same struggles that they have experienced, a similar number (47 per cent) said that they suffered in silence with an issue or their feelings because they didn’t want to burden others.”
How to help someone who is spending Christmas day alone
If you aren’t spending Christmas day alone but you know someone who is, recognise that they may be struggling.
Jo said: “It’s easy to get swept up in your day but if you have friends or family members you know are spending the day alone, take a moment to check in with them.
“Small gestures of kindness or compassion, like sending a quick text or giving someone a call, can often have a more positive impact on our wellbeing, than grand or expensive gestures.
“It shows us that people are considering our feelings as well as understanding them, which in turn immediately boosts our levels of oxytocin and serotonin – hormones which can help us feel calmer and happier – while reducing our stress hormone, cortisol.”
According to the research by Recognised, what makes Brits feel the most valued and appreciated is the simple act of someone checking in to see if they are okay.
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