(Pere Tarrés Foundation) Christmas is approaching and, once again, we find ourselves facing desired festivities, but with a bitter taste: again with the contradiction of needing to celebrate and share with the family after a difficult year and a half, but at the same time facing a sixth wave and in the face of the uncertainty of the new variants of Covid-19, which can affect our emotional balance. Emotional management will be key to being able to enjoy these holidays to the fullest without becoming more distressed than necessary. Even more so in a context in which, according to numerous studies, the pandemic has triggered mental health problems, especially among children and young people.

Given the proximity of the Christmas festivities, the team of experts in social and educational areas of the Fundació Pere Tarrés has prepared a list of lessons that we can extract from what we bring from the health and social emergency, which can be useful for future events. crisis. In addition, they point out various strategies and guidelines to emotionally manage this period. Reflections from the hand of Elena Requenaprofessor at the Pere Tarrés-URL Faculty of Social Education and Social Work and specialist in mental and community health, and Marina Bonacheleisure teacher at the Pere Tarrés Foundation and nurse specialized in mental health.

What have we learned from the pandemic?

An individual and collective crisis like the one we are experiencing has still forced us to reorder our values ​​and priorities. After a year and a half of living in situations that, in some cases, have been extraordinarily hard, we have learned about our shortcomings and have rescued all our strengths. In a context in which we can allow ourselves to be carried away by pessimism and fatalism, highlighting how the crisis has awakened in us important skills and competencies that had gone unnoticed can help us face the future with a different perspective. What learnings have we learned from all these months of pandemic that may be useful to us later? Marina Bonache, professor at the Fundació Pere Tarrés and nurse specialist in mental health, points out five.

1. We have accepted our vulnerability and mental health has been made visible. The uncertainty of the first months of the crisis, the perception of insecurity, fear of contagion, social distancing, lack of resources, social inequalities in the face of the same threat, etc. All this has revealed our fragility. The visibility of these difficulties has made it possible to begin to break the taboo around mental health problems.

2. We have learned that we are resilient and have resources. While it has put our vulnerability on the table, the pandemic has shown us our resilience as we overcome these months of health crisis and realize that we have many self-sufficient resources. Some people have also learned that they had a greater capacity to accept certain situations (being locked up for weeks, not seeing loved ones, not being able to change municipalities, etc.) that they would never have imagined due to the exceptional nature of what we were experiencing.

3. We have seen the importance of dedicating time to self care. The visibility of mental health and how essential it is to maintain emotional balance has also led us to prioritize the role of care and self-care. If we do not find time to take care of ourselves (meditate, have reading or leisure time, play sports…), we are not taking our mental health into account.

4. We have understood that it is necessary to be more flexible and change routines. Every crisis implies a break in routines, and in these months we have been forced to change many. Adaptation to the new situation has been easier in those cases in which we have been able to maintain some of these routines, since this has allowed us to maintain a certain feeling of security, but at the same time we have learned how sometimes it is healthy to act with a certain degree of flexibility and not being excessively rigid when planning our daily lives.

5. It has remained clear the importance of strengthening relational ties. Confinement and health restrictions to prevent the coronavirus have triggered the use of new technologies in the professional, leisure and relational fields. New technological tools and resources have helped access services and have even acted as a complementary therapeutic tool, but we have also seen how irreplaceable face-to-face and human contact are.

Conclusion, we find ourselves with the ability to live in the present. In a crisis, staying in the present means not getting stuck in a past where perhaps “we were fine” (which makes us nostalgic and sad), nor clinging to an uncertain future. Staying in the present means accepting our emotions, becoming aware of the current situation and resolving the circumstances that arise in our daily lives. If we keep living and connecting with the “now and here”, we are allowing ourselves to live from self-care.

Tips to face Christmas while taking care of your mental health

With everything we have learned from these months, we now have to face a still uncertain future. A year ago, we were facing a completely atypical Christmas with the emotional shock that the pandemic had caused. Now, at the threshold of a new Christmas and with Covid-19 still resisting leaving our lives, we have a new challenge ahead of us caused by the uncertainties of the evolution of the new variant of the virus and how it will affect us in the sixth wave of the virus. Dr. Elena Requena, from the Pere Tarrés-URL Faculty of Social Education and Social Work and specialized in mental and community health, proposes some strategies to face the Christmas holidays.

1. Let’s try to avoid negative thoughts and focus on the positive ones. What marks our emotional state is not so much what happens to us, but how we experience it. It is more important how we interpret what happens to us than what happens. We can face these Christmas holidays anchored in what cannot be – which will lead us to feelings of anger, helplessness, rage or frustration – or with a positive and constructive attitude of wanting to enjoy Christmas, even if it is in a different way. . We must avoid negative thoughts and we can achieve this if we express our concerns and focus on the positive. For example, at the end of the day, we can write down something pleasant that happened to us, an exercise that we can share as a family. Of course, if feelings of anguish and sadness overcome us and alarm those around us, let’s not rule out asking for professional help.

2. Let’s take time for ourselves and our personal enjoyment and care. It is possible that this Christmas, whether due to caution, fear or recommendations from health authorities, we will not be able to do all the social activity we would like, but it is not wasted time: let’s dedicate time to ourselves. It can be a good time to do those activities that we like, but for which we do not find as much time as we would like: reading, watching movies, gardening, crafts, an afternoon of board games with the children, etc. They are small pleasures that we sometimes neglect due to work or domestic obligations. They can also be a few days to increase contact with nature, which contributes to both emotional and physical well-being.

3. Let’s look for alternatives if it is not possible to meet like in other years. Christmas is synonymous with reunion with family and friends. This year should be no different, just look for other options for meetings. Reserve in-person lunches and dinners for those most significant people (always respecting current health measures), and for the rest, innovate with other options: a quiet walk, hot chocolate on a terrace, a video conference, etc. The important thing is to avoid social isolation and the feelings of frustration and anguish that it entails. Not being able to celebrate these days as always does not mean that we cannot enjoy them: rigidity is not a good traveling companion and there is always a margin to adapt, which, no matter how small, makes us feel that we can minimally control the circumstances.

4. Let’s not forget the traditions that we love so much, but let’s innovate! We tend to reproduce routines because changes can generate anxiety and we like our comfort zone more than we are willing to admit, but, as we have explained before, the pandemic has inevitably incorporated flexibility into our lives. So it makes no sense to insist on replicating Christmas in the same way from years past if the circumstances are different. Talk about it with those at home or with the people you celebrate it with to build together how you would like this Christmas to be. Live it in the key of opportunity: invisible friend from a distance, Christmas carol contest, virtual meetings, escape room Christmas at home for the little ones, etc. Without forgetting to participate in the initiatives that are in your community these days, such as outdoor exhibitions of nativity scenes, living nativity scenes or popular walks.

5. Let’s reflect on our lifestyle and consumption. Christmas is probably the time of year when it is easiest to fall into mindless consumerism. Let us become aware that consumerism does not provide happiness, but rather a need for greater consumerism because there will always be a new product to buy. Much of today’s consumption is not environmentally sustainable, but neither is it emotionally sustainable. We take a look at consumption this Christmas: is it really necessary to receive so many gifts? In the case of children, what values ​​are we transmitting if we prioritize quantity over quality? We can give toys made with recyclable materials, that encourage creativity, that are not sexist… On the other hand, is it necessary for gifts to be wrapped in decorative papers? We can take advantage of cardboard bags or boxes that we often accumulate at home without giving them any use and decorate them to our liking: surely you like a personalized decoration more than a perfect wrapping with paper that bears the logo of a shopping center.

In short, it is necessary to accept realistically that Covid-19 will continue with us for some time and that it is causing and will lead to changes in our habits and customs. But we must also be clear that since the pandemic has entered our lives we have evolved, we have learned and we have strategies to adapt to the situation. Focusing on positive thinking, focusing on what we can control and avoiding social isolation are some of the keys that will increase our emotional well-being and allow us, however, to enjoy a merry Christmas.