Connecting at Christmas: Mental Health & Looking to The Future
The year 2020 will be one for the history books. The world was shocked when a pandemic crept its way into our daily lives and disrupted the way we lived. It was a year of massive change, and for some, the change was a shock to the system. As a result, we had to find different ways to reach out and connect to our loved ones in order to support each other.
During the long periods of isolation we faced, some found new interests and hobbies, whilst others found that being kept inside with their thoughts was a struggle.
2020 mental health statistics
According to a recent survey conducted by YouGov, almost two-thirds (65%) of Britons say that the pandemic has had a negative impact on the state of their mental health, including 10% who say it has had a “very negative” impact.
Statistics also suggest that in 2020 over two in five Brits have felt stressed during the festive season and one in four Brits has struggled with anxiety or depression.
With so many facing a mental health crisis right now, it’s important to remember the support available to you – and we wanted to share what has helped our team to personally cope with the stress of a year spent indoors.
Combating isolation: The importance of video calls
It should come as no surprise that video calling in 2020 skyrocketed – in both the working world and everyday life. In fact, the usage of Microsoft Teams has shot up since April 2020, from 75 million daily active users to 115 million.
Video conferencing has always been around to help everyone share special moments when not in the same place, but now more than ever, these apps are the reason we are connected at all, even just to catch up with one another. These apps won’t just be for Christmas – they’ll most likely have changed the way people connect with each other from now on.
Microsoft Teams has pushed the envelope with helping everyone feel connected – from their ‘together mode’ for employers and employees, to special features for family and friends to stay connected.
There are a myriad of features for families and friends that you can use to stay connected this Christmas and even beyond with Microsoft Teams for Home:
- Create group events and add them to your personal calendar in Teams or on your device.
- Start group chats with friends, even if they don’t have Teams installed on their phone.
- Create and assign tasks to people and easily track their progress.
- Turn any one-on-one or group chat into an instant video or voice call
- Use the dashboard in every group chat to easily access everything shared within a group such as tasks, upcoming events, photos, and files so you can access everything in one place.
- Share Word, Excel, or PowerPoint files within any chat.
- Upload files in chats directly from your phone or PC or choose from files saved in your personal OneDrive cloud storage.
- Share your live location in any group or one-on-one chat.
- Get alerts when loved ones leave or arrive at designated locations.
- Store confidential information like passwords, or login information in a secure place that requires authentication to open.
Virtual & anonymous support: Mental Health Apps
The statistics for Christmas mental health in the UK are still alarming and with the pandemic on top of this, it might be a challenging year.
For some of you, it might be the first time you’ve ever experienced this kind of mental health crisis. You might not know where to begin, or even how to communicate your struggles – and that’s fine. There are apps available that allow you to remain anonymous whilst receiving therapy from verified therapists and psychologists. There are apps that also let you track your mood day by day and give you insight into what activities you were doing that may have altered your mood. Whatever kind of support you need, there will most likely be an app for that.
Here are some apps that might help you if you’re struggling to get hold of a professional in person, on a waiting list, or would prefer to remain anonymous when receiving support.
(Please remember, if you feel you or a loved one is in a more critical or vulnerable state, always consult your GP. These apps are not intended to replace your GP, they are here for additional support if needed.)
Youper is an Emotional Health Assistant that helps you monitor and improve your emotional health. It uses quick conversations drawn from different psychological techniques, including CBT and Mindfulness to help you understand yourself, regulate your emotions and more.
Wysa (Best Health & Care App 2020)
Wysa is an AI smartbot that anonymously chats with you and coaches you to better cope with daily stresses. Wysa is designed to help with a variety of health issues like diabetes, smoking, depression, etc.
Reflectly is another personal mental health companion. It's a journal utilising artificial intelligence to help you structure and reflect upon your daily thoughts and problems.
Have a digital detox
Yes, this point does seem counterproductive compared to our other suggestions – but for some people, being online and switched on all day can do more harm than good. World events this year have been chaotic, and with most people’s states of mind being more vulnerable, this can cause significant emotional distress.
Instead of logging into social media and reading the doom and gloom headlines, take some time away and do alternative things such as reading a new book series or having a movie marathon of your favourite feel good movies. Maybe learn a new skill that takes you away from modern technology for a while. We spend so much of our lives in front of a screen, sometimes we need to take a second away and breathe.
What the COVID-19 vaccine means
Recently, the UK has announced the approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine - judged safe for use in UK. It offers up to 95% protection against Covid-19. This news may come as a relief for many – but there is suggestion that it will still be a long road ahead before we’re able to safely return to the life we knew before the pandemic. That’s why it’s still important to know how to deal with periods of isolation or understand how you feel and how to deal with the ‘new normal’.
How #teamTSG are connecting at Christmas
Earlier this month, we asked the team at TSG how they would be spending their Christmas this year, in light of the recent government lockdown rules. Below are some of the replies we had – hopefully those of you reading might get some great ideas on how to spend Christmas 2020 with your loved ones!
Head of Customer Experience
“This Christmas will be a little different for us all, so in order to stay connected this year I will be sharing a little memory (with a note/photo) with all the gifts I send friends and family relating to something we have done together in the past. The idea is that it will remind them of a time we shared together and suggest something we should do to create another memory when we are able.”
Customer Care Co-ordinator
“For the past 30 years we have gone to my In-laws for Christmas lunch then to my Mam’s for teatime but we can’t do that this year so for the first time in my life I’m making Christmas lunch and having my Mam and youngest sister at my house. We are going to play games, be merry and thankful for what we have which means so much more this year than ever before. To extend my support outside of my circle I’ve also decided to put a hamper together for a family local to me whom are struggling and I’m doing this via a charity called Feeding Families.”
Sales Outreach Executive
“Every Christmas my husband, the kids, and I usually go to visit family and get a surprise visit from Santa or his elves with Christmas PJ’s. This year because of Covid we can’t do this, so instead, we are going to join in the “worldwide Christmas Eve Jingle 2020” which will be everyone on their doorsteps at 6pm jingling bells.
We have told the kids that because of Covid Santa can’t come into our houses unless it’s to bring presents, but he still wants to check where everyone is and that they’re ready for bed. I’m hoping this will give them a great memory on a year which has been super hard but also means they go to bed straight after and I get a Christmas Eve tipple."
“This Christmas, my family, friends and I are going to have a virtual 'Netflix Party' - it's a browser extension for Google Chrome that offers a fully synced viewing experience with group chat, so we'll still be able to watch all the classics together and talk about them. And of course, virtual TV & film drinking games because that's just tradition! We're also going to live stream opening Christmas presents so we're all still 'together' for Christmas and can feel the excitement (& thinly veiled disappointment!) from each other.”
“If I can’t make it home to my family in Yorkshire this Christmas, I won’t let it stop me from joining in with the usual festivities. My flatmates and I already have a fun-filled contingency plan in place! I’ll start off my Christmas day with a video call with all my family, so we can keep up the tradition of opening our presents together. After that, my flatmates and I will be having Christmas dinner together, doing our bit to ‘shop local’ (and due to our laziness) we’ll be ordering a festive feast from the local pub, washed down with festive cocktails and homemade mulled wine. We’ve then challenged ourselves to each provide an hour’s slot of entertainment, before finishing the day with a virtual Christmas quiz with all our families together.”
“I haven’t been able to catch up with many of my friends in person this year as they live all across the country and Covid hasn’t allowed, so to let them know I’m thinking of them, and in the hopes of a better year when we can see each other again, I’ve made bracelets to send them all, each with a ‘2021’ charm and a lucky four leaf clover charm. I know some of them are struggling financially, so instead of exchanging extravagant presents, this is my way of sending a sprinkle of good luck and festive cheer.”
Customer Success Manager
“Being lucky to come from a big family and with a big friends group I know this year will be tough. For my friends we are already planning our “Big Christmas Night in party” (I wish I could say we plan on doing virtual cheese tasting or something fancy but most likely will be us all just laughing at one another, drinking a little too much wearing our silly Christmas Jumpers) and with 2 new additions to the extended family we cant wait to meet them!
When it comes to family we will be having a Virtual Christmas games night (luckily my 82 year old Granny is pretty techy so knows her way around her iPad) Its not the same but its better than nothing.
Lastly I just can’t wait to snuggle up with my better half and our dog Sprout and watch a movie! (and of course take more photos of him!)”
How to support Mental Health UK
TSG's current national charity is Mental Health UK, who support anyone who is in a mental health crisis. By donating to them, you’ll be supporting their efforts to ensure everyone has access to the critical support they need as we move into the new world. Please show your support by donating here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Joanne-Deane3