Photo credit: Willliam Warby. Licensed under Creative Commons – original.

Christmas often brings stress, but the coronavirus crisis means that for many people it may be particularly tough this year.

For many, there will be money worries, with incomes reduced by furlough and redundancies. Many families have lost loved ones and been unable to say their goodbyes as they would wish because of restrictions on funerals and visits to care homes and hospitals. People have been feeling isolated, from being locked down by themselves or in places that don’t feel safe or supportive for them.

We know it will not be a normal Christmas for many people, yet it is more important than ever that no one feels alone after such a tough year. Now more than ever before we need to be kind to ourselves and each other. 

Given the circumstances we are all going through, it is normal to feel upset, anxious or confused at times. It is OK not to feel OK. Don’t be afraid to talk to someone, help is available for whatever you are going through. We can get through this together.

Staying connected this festive season

Loneliness can affect all Londoners. Retired civil engineer, Roger Juer, wrote about how lonely Christmas can be for those with no close friends or family nearby, and how this has only been made worse by Covid:

“Every December I go through a fortnight of misery. I’m a very social person, and I love company, but come Christmas I am forgotten or abandoned while people get on with their own lives… For me, lockdown has been like a hugely magnified, extended, infinite Christmas. The loneliness has become almost intolerable.”

An online listening project run by Partnership for Young London and Good Thinking, with the support of TikTok, heard regularly from a group of a group of 14 to 24-year-olds during the height of the pandemic. When asked to sum up their lockdown experience in one or two words, ‘lonely’, ‘cooped up’ and ‘bored’ were common responses.

2020 had brought a continued feeling of uncertainty and the festive period is no different. So to help, we have collated just some sources of support to help you feel less lonely this festive season.

It can be confusing to know how best to spend the festive period and how can everyone stay safe. For up-to-date guidance on staying safe over the Christmas period, explore City Hall’s coronavirus updates and guidance hub.

The mental health charity Mind has put together a Christmas and coronavirus page on its website, packed with useful information on covid-specific topics, such as bereavement, money worries and frustration over lockdown measures, along with ideas of how to enjoy Christmas if you are feeling lonely or stressed.

Anyone with financial or income worries can get free advice from Debt Free London. You can call on 0808 164 2480 (between 10am – 5pm during the week) – they provide expert, impartial information and advice to help you manage debt and money problems, including where to go for further help and practical solutions.

Be More Us’ Have a Chat campaign is encouraging people to reach out to neighbours and loved ones. Its website has a wealth of advice and tips on what to do to alleviate loneliness, along with links to organisations such as Age UK and the Befriending Network that provide info on in-person support groups in the community, as well as helplines and online chats.

The NHS and Royal Voluntary Service’s Christmas Together campaign – which through the NHS Volunteer Responder network – is supporting people to stay connected and access essentials. Additionally, The Great Winter Get Together campaign, an initiative founded in 2017 by the family and friends of Jo Cox in partnership with more than 100 organisations, features a different theme each week, suggesting five ways people can connect.

For more support, we have put together a range of tools and resources to help support your mental health and wellbeing, from advice on handling money worries to free NHS-approved apps from Good Thinking to help you deal with stress, anxiety, low mood and poor sleep. You’ll also find a list of simple things you can do to keep yourself well, and ways to get support if you are finding things especially difficult.