Make sure that it’s not a lonely Christmas – for yourself and for others
The corona measures currently in place mean that we are cut off from all meaningful social contact. This can make us feel lonely, which impacts on our resilience. While the festive season is traditionally a time for being together, the end of 2020 threatens to shine the spotlight on our loneliness. Rather than giving in to this feeling, let’s make sure that we have a warm festive season, and keep those we hold dear close.
Loss of resilience
The second lockdown is possibly having even more of an impact than the first, and is sapping the last bit of resilience that we had. The most recent health survey shows that one in five people are prone to depressive thoughts, and almost a quarter are suffering from anxiety. While 35% of the respondents were dissatisfied with the level of social contact in September, this has now grown to 65%.
And, to top this off, we can’t celebrate a normal Christmas, the most important social occasion that we love so much, putting extra pressure on our resilience.
Social relationships are the glue that hold society together
We flourish thanks to our social contacts. Maintaining and preserving our social relationships are important for our sense of well-being. Contact with our families, but happenstance meetings too, ensure that we feel connected to the group, that we feel secure, and that we can motivate ourselves to make extraordinary efforts for others – in this case to comply with the measures in place and help to ‘flatten the curve’.
Of course, loneliness was a problem before corona, but these are just the right conditions that this ugly beast needs to thrive. And this is not without risk: loneliness contributes to the loss of that o so important resilience and functionality and leads to emotional problems.
Our young people in particular need their social contacts and are entitled to their social experimental phase. After all, it is in this important phase that they form their identity and become ready to contribute to society as future adults. This social experimentation phase has been taken from them for many months due to the coronavirus pandemic. Even worse, when our young people display natural behaviour, we wag our finger.
While the coronavirus pandemic has put pressure on our basic need for social contact for many months, we will feel this all the more keenly at Christmas. We all know the rules – or at least we should do by now: a family can have one ‘cuddle contact’ and a single person can have two. That’s the theory, but what does it look like in practice? What if those two cuddle contacts are invited to visit their own families? That means you celebrate Christmas alone.
It is therefore more important than ever to develop an inspiring and engaging narrative, to get through this abnormal festive season in the most resilient way we can. The constant focus on the restrictions to our freedom is demotivating, while an inspiring objective can achieve the opposite. We need to shift the mindset from restriction to a positive message. Covid-19 has pushed us into a dark tunnel, of which we cannot yet see the end. We lack perspective and control, which is why we need to make sure that we don’t give up, but that we create our own perspective in which we can take control. In other words, we need to use our resilience to make it through the corona tunnel and out the other side.
The warmest Christmas
So, what do I propose? We have seen that this pandemic does not follow statistical models. In that case, let’s play the humanity card and form a team of 11 million, in which no-one gets left out.
To start with, a certain responsibility for this lies with our public services and government bodies. For them the task to provide the population with the tips & tricks that they need, inspiring narratives and distractions from the sometimes-hard reality. The live show ‘Christmas with 11 million’, put together by the normally competing channels Eén, VTM, VIER, La Une and RTL-TVI, is a step in the right direction to unite and motivate the population in this period. We can all build on the feeling of togetherness that this creates, for example by enjoying the programme with family and friends using online tools such as Watchparty.
We also need to organise alternative routes for our single people, our young people and anyone who needs a little relief from the family. An example could be to organise a walk or a torchlight procession on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day (taking the corona measures into account).
Above all, we need to take care of ourselves and each other. Doing something for someone else can contribute to our own happiness. Perhaps we could use the time that we normally spend eating and drinking on Christmas Day to help out in an old people’s home. Or we could talk to someone on the phone who is going through a difficult time or feeling lonely. It’s not much, but it can make a world of difference. Why not give a flower or a home-made meal to someone who is alone this festive season, or post a card through their letter box? However small the gesture, it helps people to feel less alone. However, it is also important to recognise the tipping point in other people, and to make sure that they get the right help when necessary.
And so we can be part of a larger whole, do something meaningful and help others to have a warm Christmas. Perhaps the warmest Christmas ever?