How Kiwis can cope with Covid-19 anxiety this Christmas

Photo / Getty

Photo / Getty

'Tis the season to be jolly! So why do Christmas plans seem more of a daunting task than ever?

As with most things this year, it all comes back to Covid-19 and the effect the pandemic has had on the lives of so many across the globe.

But we Kiwis worked hard in 2020 so that we could celebrate a Kiwi Christmas relatively free of Covid-19 and lockdown restrictions that many others in the world face.

While a lot of us will be able to spend time with friends and family in person, many of us are facing the festive season without loved ones who are stuck overseas and unable to come home.

It's a Christmas like no other we have faced and could be an anxiety-ridden time for many people. It's also a great time to check in with those overseas who are probably feeling further away from home than ever.

So how can we best manage this anxiety? Psychologist Kyle MacDonald has a few tips on how to navigate a Christmas like never before.

Trust official advice

Although we're at alert level 1, things will still look a little different for most of us this year, MacDonald says.

"It's going to be mixed," he says. "It'll certainly look different for people who may have family overseas, whether that's as close as Australia or further away. And isolation costs will prohibit people from coming home for Christmas."

But while we can't travel, it's important to make the most of what we can still do, MacDonald says.

"Give yourself permission to trust official advice. At alert level 1 it's safe to gather with family and friends, to travel within New Zealand - you should feel safe to do that this Christmas."

Be flexible with holiday plans

While our international Christmas travel plans may have been put on hold, it's been a really difficult year financially for countless Kiwis and most travel businesses in particular.

Redundancies and job insecurity mean Christmas plans may have to be simpler than we're used to. MacDonald says it's important to keep a flexible mindset around plans for the festive season.

"You should keep a degree of flexibility in mind. This might mean making some small changes to feel safer, whether that's flying with a mask on, social distancing at campgrounds - if we take these steps we can still have a reasonably normal Christmas."

When it comes to gifting, maybe suggest a fun secret Santa for your family, so you only have to buy one gift instead of 10.

Focus on gratitude

We're lucky to be living in a country without Covid in the community. We can still gather for a meal or head out with friends, spend Christmas on the beach or on the road.

"Try to focus on gratitude," MacDonald recommends.

"Recognise that we are in a good place in New Zealand and don't take the small things for granted."

Keep in contact with loved ones

Keeping in touch with others is easier than ever in this age of Zoom calls and virtual games. Especially at Christmas time, it's important to keep up with family who are far away.

"It's really important to check up on each other. Maybe that means sitting around the laptop at the Christmas Day dinner table, but it's also about keeping in regular contact beyond the holidays," MacDonald says.

"It is a rough Christmas especially in the UK and in the US."

Take a mindfulness approach

Our situations may be different, but it's the unknown we all face heading into next year that is the most daunting thing.

Though it can be an overwhelming time, MacDonald says mindfulness is key to getting through the holiday season and into the new year.

"The uncertainty has probably been the hardest thing overall. But the vaccination is positive news," he says.

"We can be pretty sure easy overseas travel is off the agenda for 2021. So let's make the most of trying to find certainty where we are and make plans we know we can achieve."

Whether that's a roadie around NZ or travelling to visit family in another city, there are still plenty of things within our reach. And while it seems clich├ęd, MacDonald's reminder to make the most of each moment is a timely one.

"Bring a mindfulness approach with you wherever you go. Be where you are in the moment."

This article was first published on the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission.