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  • Writer's pictureLesley

Christmas Finish Line or COVID Finish Line

Many are now on the home straight, pulling and crawling their way over the Christmas finish line to enjoy a very hard earned break after this year, but we cant mistake the Christmas finish line for the COVID finish line. Community groups will be busier than ever supporting people who will be alone this Christmas.

Feeling very encouraged this morning after all the amazing feedback from last week’s ‘Building Mental Fitness blog’. Although the pressure is now on to maintain that standard… Do I have any more mental health blogs in me… absolutely, but how far do we take this, as the old saying goes – you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.

The reason behind the venture with blogs is to try and help people build up mental resilience on the lead up to Christmas and more so in the New Year. The post festive January dip leaves many people questioning their life, their purpose, many take to the travel agents and start booking up the annual family and friends summer holiday to Benidorm. Many people will make vows and write down new years’ resolutions only to fail within a few weeks. Many decide its time to turn a new leaf and start a new meaningful life driven by purpose and intent, deliberate acts of defiance as they turn their life around and start anew.

In the next 2 to 3 weeks the majority of people will be closing the company laptop, switching off the phone and locking the office door excited and relieved to have made it through 2020. The first COVID-19 vaccines will be administered this week and signs of what we call our ‘normal way of life’ are starting to appear on the horizon.

There seems to be a strange concoction of feelings and emotions swirling around, at work, many people are exhausted and are just looking forward to a few weeks off, clock watching every day until that day comes. Within community groups, committees and volunteers are trying to work out how best to support people over the Christmas period, will the COVID R-rate peak post-Christmas and will be heading back into tier 4, or will the vaccine come good? For those who have been furloughed or have lost their jobs, Christmas will be an added stress on top of an already tense and worrying situation.

The Christmas camps seems to be split 50/50 between the ‘going all out’ gang and the ‘having a quiet one’ gang. Some people will be throwing everything into Christmas this year in a bid to overcompensate for what has been a miserable year, others will be having a quiet one, they are not giving in to social expectation and for some, this will be the first Christmas having lost a loved one before their time due to COVID. Many elderly people will remain cut off from family or friends and will be spending the holidays alone.

At the start of lockdown there was a huge wave of volunteer support across the UK, many doctors, and nurses re-registered and supported the NHS, thousands of community first responders were re-deployed to support the ambulance services. Then there were the community volunteers, with many people off work due to the national lockdown, many devoted that time to supporting local teams responding to lockdown.

As we eased out of lockdown the volunteers slowly returned to work, people were getting tired of hearing about COVID, people wanted to enjoy what was left of the summer. Many community groups felt that they had served their purpose but the reality was, thousands of elderly people still required support, thousands had no means of getting to the shops as they too had experienced mental health problems from pro-longed isolation and many were still afraid of contracting COVID.

This year, as Christmas approaches people will feel more tired and exhausted than ever, but we still have people in isolation and the resilience group still has a job to do. Volunteers are tired, people are fed-up hearing about COVID, ironically, Brexit news is a welcome break from COVID news (remember back in March when it was the other way around). People are now experiencing empathy fatigue, volunteers who helped in the beginning have satisfied the emotional reaction to lockdown and they feel they have ‘done their part’. And in general, people’s heads are down, they are crawling and pulling themselves over that Christmas holiday finish line.

The busyness of preparing for the most amazingly perfect Christmas ever (sarcasm) will become top priority, it will be too easy to forget and side-line the people who need us most. Over 9 months of isolation and now the prospect of facing Christmas alone will be the reality for many elderly and lonely people in the UK. The post-Christmas R-rate has the potential to pull us back into tier 4 lockdown prolonging the misery some more. As 2021 arrives the wishes of the masses will be ‘please not another year of this’

If you are reading this blog I would encourage you to look deep within yourself and re-kindle your empathy, re-kindle your compassion and fan the flames of humility, there will you will find the inner strength to keep supporting local groups, you will find drive and motivation, purpose and determination to support a cause bigger than yourself.

Do not give in to the weight that comes with the social expectation of having the perfect Christmas, instead have your own unique Christmas, if that means entertaining the drunk cousins, strange uncles and the neighbor’s dog – do it! If you decided to take a ride on the ‘between Christmas and new year roller-coaster’ wondering who you are and where you are going in life, hoping that 2021 brings more cheer than 2020, consider supporting your local community and help the band of weary volunteers who have been going strong since march.

It did not matter how tough military training exercises were, it did not matter the pressure you faced, it did not matter about sleep deprivation, or being cold, wet and hungry. The only thing that mattered was getting the job done.

The Christmas holiday finish line is approaching and many feel they are on the home-straight, they can see the time off coming, but the Christmas finish line is not the COVID finish line, it certainly is not the end to people who are isolated and cut off from friends, family and community. If anything, with the hope of the vaccine, this might be the beginning of the end of the pandemic, but it’s only the beginning of the silent tsunami of mental health and the social re-integration of those who have spent 2020 alone.

If you are finding things particularly hard at this time of year you can call: National Helpline 0800 111 4000

Alternatively, you can contact Willow Grove Counselling, the team at Willow Grove have been a considerable help to the resilience group and will be making a regular blog visit over the coming months:

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