Brought to you by: Monaco Life
“A very Merry Christmas and a happy new year. Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear.”
Despite John Lennon’s best intentions, this Christmas may not be such a good one. It is unlikely to be lived without any fear, many of us are having to come to terms with the fact that we will not be with our extended families, and as 2020 closes, we are still reeling from the collective trauma of Covid-19.
We’ve been locked down, set free and locked down again. Some of us lost loved ones to Covid-19 while others lived in fear that we might. Place your bets on what comes next. It doesn’t feel like we’re off to Lapland. It’s more like living in limbo land.
Perhaps it doesn’t feel very seasonal given so many of us have been forced to undertake a risk-benefit analysis of Christmas. Does the benefit of being together as a family outweigh the risk of killing Granny?
I think we can be forgiven for asking whether this is the season to be jolly or should we just write this one off?
As a psychotherapist to clients in Monaco and around the world, here’s my take on the psychological impact of the pandemic and a handful of seasonal, survival tips.
Studies of past pandemics such as SARS and Ebola confirm psychological reactions such as panic, depression, loneliness, anxiety, stress, grief, anxiety and PTSD as common. In other words, it’s unsurprising if you are not feeling in the Christmas spirit.
Collective traumas can alter the fabric of our societies and nations. That’s how much is at stake currently. When events like wars and natural disasters occur, we may experience an existential identity crisis, individually and/or collectively. We question society. We become hyper-vigilant to the threats arounds us, real and imagined.
What adds to the confusion is that we are all experiencing the pandemic collectively yet our responses are different and we often feel guilty that our response isn’t normal.
The psychological impact of Covid-19
We are in the early stages of understanding the psychological impact of Covid-19. One of the most recent studies has identified several common psychological reactions to the pandemic. Those include intense and uncontrolled fear related to infection, pervasive anxiety, frustration, boredom, and disabling loneliness.
As one client said to me recently, “Well when you put it like that, my stress makes sense.” None of us should underestimate the devastating impact of any one of these reactions. Many are experiencing a combination of them all.
I’ve written in Monaco Life previously about pandemic fatigue. We are overwhelmed with fatigue. Whether it’s fatigue from home schooling, media overload, zoom meetings, financial fears, health fears… we’re bloody worn out. When worn out, our capacity to withstand life’s challenges is inevitably diminished.
Not all families are on the same seasonal page. Some of us want to be together over Christmas and Covid-19 be damned, while others feel safer staying apart. At a time when families usually come together, we’re divided.
I’ve seen many families in a state of conflict over how and where to spend the holidays. One client told me that their family (who live in three different European countries) had a family meeting online in order to determine the lockdown laws in each of the three jurisdictions. She felt that resolving Brexit would have been easier.
Bah humbug. Many of my clients don’t want to risk feeling hopeful about the vaccine yet. Coping with the possibility of uncertainty or more disappointment feels too difficult. For them, the vaccine is a tease especially as most of them don’t know when they will be eligible.
The vaccine is like waiting for the next season of our favourite Netflix series. You know it’s coming but you don’t know when. We don’t allow ourselves to get hopeful in case the next series is cancelled!
What’s my point?
My point is that we can be forgiven for struggling with our mental health this Christmas. It doesn’t mean that we can’t be jolly (good for you if you are feeling in the festive spirit), but it is likely to be bittersweet for many.
My 5 Christmas survival tips
(The challenge with family zoom sessions is by the time Grandma and Grandpa have got the sound switched on and you are no longer looking at their nasal hair, the session is over).
We all want to know when things will return to normal. Perhaps our greatest hope lies in the fact that things will not return to normal but that they will get better. Perhaps we will have learned more about what we value in our relationships and lives as a result of the pandemic and be bolder in seeking those changes.
I am hopeful that from the collective trauma will come a mindful, collective awakening. Wishing good health and happiness to all as we awaken and turn the corner into 2021.
Gavin Sharpe is a UK qualified psychotherapist and a Monaco resident. He can be reached at www.rivierawellbeing.com.
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