This year, a happy Christmas means a realistic one

This year’s festive season looks very different. Our wellbeing depends on us being sensible about 2020’s limits, writes Jill White from The Charity for Civil Servants

Many of us have had to cancel religious celebrations this year, even though a semblance of Christmas appears to be going ahead. But while we look forward to the festivities, it can also be a time when relationship tensions come to the surface. The Covid-19 pandemic will pile on extra pressure this year. We can’t even be sure what Christmas will look like. What are the pitfalls of celebrating in a wider Christmas bubble? Are our lone relatives still facing an isolated week? Additionally, for too many of us, it will be the first Christmas since losing a loved one to Covid-19.

Finances tend to be a source of relationship tension every Christmas and, with rising unemployment, there will be more people experiencing money worries this year. Burnout just adds to the pressure – many civil servants have been working flat out during the pandemic, which will take its toll on relationships and family life. It could be hard for many of us to stay festive this season.

But thankfully, with the encouraging news about coronavirus vaccines, there is now room for hope. To help every civil servant – and their loved ones – through this one-off festive season, we at The Charity for Civil Servants have produced a range of webinars that address issues that are particularly poignant in 2020, including resilience, burnout and grief. We’ve recorded each one so that you can watch on demand.

Every new year, right after the festive break, enquiries peak at Relate, which is the UK’s largest provider of relationship support. In part, the surge is caused by people waiting until the new year to seek support for relationship issues. But often, by that point, matters have already reached crisis point. That’s why it’s important to seek support for relationships as early as you can. If you are worried about the pandemic’s effect on someone in your family – from children to grandparents – Relate offers support. We’ve been working with them to provide all current, retired and former civil servants and their families up to four free Relate counselling sessions. More information on how to access these sessions can be found on our Relate Counselling page

To give yourself a greater sense of wellbeing, here are our top tips for getting through the 2020 festive season: 

  • Most importantly, be realistic. It’s going to feel quite different this year – please remember, it’s just this one Christmas.
  • Make provisional plans, but understand they aren’t guaranteed. We must all keep up to date with government guidelines to ensure we act responsibly and safely. This could easily mean sudden changes, cancellations and disappointments. By thinking flexibly, you can boost your resilience. 
  • Prepare a budget now. If you are in a couple, involve your partner, so that you are on the same page from the beginning. Our Christmas Budget Planner will help you get organised. We all want to make this time of year special, but it shouldn’t be at the cost of our longer-term financial health. 
  • Arrange a Christmas Day video call with family you can’t see in person. You could even plan to eat your meal at the same time.
  • Don’t put too much pressure on making just one day perfect. We know this isn’t easy, especially when young children are involved. But be kind to yourself; there are at least 364 days that are not Christmas.
  • If you’re celebrating with others, allow yourself some space for me-time. During stressful times, many people benefit by practicing mindfulness. Get ‘A Taste of Mindfulness’ for free through our Breathworks programme.
  • Seek support if you need it. If you think you may find this Christmas particularly hard, please seek help sooner rather than later. Also note that many services offer only a skeleton service over the festive period. Visit our wellbeing section for support and guidance on issues such as anxiety, depression and insomnia. 
  • Remember that The Charity for Civil Servants offers support for relationship issues in partnership with Relate. A fresh perspective, from a qualified counsellor, can help improve the situation before it’s too late.

This strange year was always going to end in a strange December. But we are thankful for the scientists who have given the world a truly great gift making sure next year will be better. Whatever this festive season looks like, we are all worthy of care and hope. We wish you and your family wellness and health.

The Charity for Civil Servants is here to support all civil servants, past and present, when they need it most. Let us help you too.

Jill White is the head of wellbeing services at The Charity for Civil Servants

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