Cook, Bake, Puzzles: Tips for Coping with COVID Christmas Blues

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Posted on December 21st, 2020

With many festive plans axed, Guardian readers share how they stay positive during trying times.

With millions facing a last-minute cancellation of Christmas plans, and the UK still in the throes of a second wave of coronavirus, festive cheer feels hard to come by. We asked our readers how they stayed upbeat during difficult times.

Plan your day. Schedule activities to fill it up and feel like you have a plan … cook or bake, some reading time, or even build a puzzle,’ suggests one reader. Photograph: Alamy

‘Get outside – the natural world is still plodding on despite us’

“Getting outside grounds you,” said 50-year-old Daisy Edwards, a learning support teacher at a sixth-form college in Hampshire. “Being able to hear the birds is so important. Just seeing things that aren’t affected by coronavirus makes it feel like there will be a time, one day, when we’re not in the midst of all of this.”

Edwards gets outside every day to walk her dogs and often goes for runs too. The fresh air and exercise has helped to distract her from the news. “When you get up in the morning, open a door or a window and listen for a minute,” she said. “The natural world is still plodding on despite us.”

‘Cook, bake, puzzles’

Helen*, a 41-year-old project manager in Essex, said structuring her day and being productive had helped her to cope during the pandemic. “Plan your day. Schedule activities to fill it up and feel like you have a plan,” she said. “It might not appeal to all but it gives you a purpose. Schedule calls to friends, something to cook or bake, some reading time, or even build a puzzle.”

‘Learn to play an instrument – do it just for you’

Imogen Killner, 22, from Axminster in Devon suggested learning to play an instrument, as she did at the beginning of the spring lockdown. “I had always wanted to teach myself but never had the money to take lessons at school, so I bought a secondhand ukulele,” the content writer said.

“I have no hand-eye coordination but I eventually picked it up. It turns out there are a lot of interesting and easy tutorials on YouTube. My advice would be to not panic or push yourself too hard. It might be complicated at first but you will naturally get the hang of it. Just do it for yourself – it’s about the journey, not just the destination.”

‘Take in some public art – there’s never a time not to go’

Mark Bryant, a 71-year-old retired bishop from Whitley Bay, told the Guardian that going to visit the Angel of the North was always a heart-warming experience.

“It always feels to me that it’s looking out over the whole of the north-east,” Bryant said. “Its a really good place to be still, to meditate, and to pray. There is never a time not to go. There’s something about it that really helps me think about the things that really matter, especially this year.”

‘Send a text or card – it’s the little things that matter’

Kate Green, a 37-year-old communication support worker for deaf students in London, has taken the time to send thoughtful gestures to friends and family throughout lockdown and Christmas. “Just little things like a text message or a little card in the post make you aware that you’re not alone and that people are thinking about you,” she said. It’s not just Green that has been sending thoughtful gestures to loved ones, her husband has also begun baking gingerbread for the neighbours.

‘It’s nice to have something that takes me away from the screen’

Amy Morse, a 43-year-old self-employed business consultant from Bristol, has taken up two creative hobbies during lockdown which she’s continuing into the Christmas break: soap-making, and macramé, the art of knot-tying to make things such as plant hangers and curtains.

“I’ve been lucky to work online throughout the pandemic but it means you’re home all the time and can’t go out,” she said. “It’s nice to have something that takes me away from the screen and doom scrolling through social media.

“I now have a massive collection of macramé pot hangers dangling in my house, and most family members are getting them or soap for Christmas.”

‘Take up painting – it’s really relaxing’

“It’s got a meditative aspect to it,” said Bryn Haworth, a writer speaking of the painting he and his wife, Abeer Mishkhas, had taken up during the pandemic. “We’ve gone a bit mad actually and have decided to call our front room Chez Matisse because it’s full of paintings we’ve done by Henri Matisse.”

Bryn and his wife have been “churning” out paintings and said “quite simply it’s preserved our sanity.”

“My advice for anyone wanting to try it is to definitely do it,” said the 62-year-old in Sevenoaks, Kent. “As long as you have the basic materials, I’d really encourage people to give it a go. It’s really relaxing and you’ll find that you lose yourself in it. It’s like slipping almost into a trance-like state.”

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