There’s no getting away from the fact that December 25 is going to look somewhat different this year – particularly as we all ponder the question, ‘how do I decide who to spend Xmas with?’ and ‘what are the rules around seeing family for Christmas in Lancaster?’

In the Stellakis (et al) corner, we untangled the latest rules and regulations to establish that our blended family – with all its extended components of parents, grandparents, partners, in-laws, and siblings – means there are 17 households all vying for time with each other. And that’s before we even start seeing our friends.

Add to the mix that for so many people across the UK – and indeed, the world – 2020 has been an incredibly challenging year financially, and we all need to be a little more careful when choosing gifts and stocking fillers. While winter might be the usual time for a bit of a splurge, there is a real need to keep an eye on our spending this time around.

Good gift ideas for a lockdown Christmas

Although we are able to venture outside of our homes, the idea of giving presents isn’t quite the same when you’re not all crammed around your tree in PJs and drinking mulled wine for breakfast. That’s why the Stellakis household has instead plumped for a ‘secret Santa’ approach instead – sending one gift in each little family unit.

Spoiler alert: I’ve chosen mine by reflecting on the past year. What struck me is that – in between all the stress of Covid-19, the ensuing lockdowns, a badly damaged arm and shoulder, and many other obstacles I could easily complain about – my world has been enhanced by so many amazing ‘gifts’ that I have received, which in the majority of cases, has cost nothing other than time, or a card, and a stamp.

In fact, for Christmas 2019, my most treasured gift of all was from my colleague Damien Gelder, who got me a card and took the time to remind me what an inspiration I had been to the team over the 12 months previously.

Fast-forward to Mother’s Day 2020, and of course I didn’t get to see any of my kids but had a card from the girls thanking me for everything I do for them, while my son penned a note to tell me I was ‘the most supportive and strongest person he knows – and that I inspire him every day’.

While it was painful not to hug any of them, these were the best gifts I could ask for.

How to take the positives from 2020 – making new friends in lockdown

A couple of my local networking contacts have firmly moved from being ‘someone I know’ to sitting firmly in the friend camp.

After a particularly tough week, my pal Nicola McIlwrath at Guy Penn spent an evening on a Zoom call with me, simply listening to my gripes and giving me plenty of non-judgemental support. After many glasses of wine, she had cheered me up no end!

Another new friend Kate Houlden at Like Technologies met me for a long dog walk and a coffee, while Mandy Blackwell at Mandy Blackwell Recruitment, and Dan Knowles at Dan Knowles Consulting – two of my business networking colleagues in Lancaster – picked up on my tone when I was feeling particularly grumpy, and both scheduled a virtual brew and natter, each telling me how I’d helped them in the past and what a difference I’d made to them. It was a real boost to morale.

A shout out has to go to Andi Lewis at too. She introduced me to a different kind of networking gang that meet online every Wednesday to focus on mindset work. This has been hugely helpful through lockdown, because seeing friendly faces and being ‘with’ people who are open and honest about their highs and lows makes a genuine difference. Some of the group have even reached out to me personally to offer support, or friendship, which is just lovely.

In a recent, emotional girlie evening with my youngest stepdaughter Sasha – who is moving out in January – she told me that I’d been a hugely positive influence in her life, particularly through all the chats we have about work. Now, when she is struggling with something at work, she often stops for a minute to ask herself: “what would Lorna do?” If that isn’t the world’s biggest compliment, I don’t know what is!

I’ve also made some new online business pals this year, two of whom, Owen Davidson Knight at Peaberry Capital, and David Tawse at Nimbus Blue, have proven to be vital sounding boards and provided much-needed peer-to-peer perspectives that are central to successfully running a small business.

The most recent gift though – delivered while I was totally grounded for two weeks and not allowed to drive – was a lovely surprise bouquet of flowers from my good friends Mal Garnett at Apparatus Marketing and Nikki Garnett at Mid Life Chic, and the delivery even included two bags of Percy Pigs from M&S!

There have been many more too. And, while this may simply sound like I am blowing my own trumpet, I firmly believe that sometimes we all need reminding of the positive impact we have on others’ lives. Particularly when we are being hard on ourselves or feeling a little overwhelmed – and at a time when real human contact and connection is limited.

The point being, all these people have done something for me this year, simply by reaching out, and being open and honest in telling me what I mean to them, thanking me, or reminding me that they are there for me too.

This means SO much more than any physical gift they could have given me.

I recently read Johann Hari’s book, ‘Lost Connections’ and one particular quote has remained lodged in my brain: “Loneliness isn’t the physical absence of other people, it’s the sense that you are not sharing anything that matters with a anyone else.”

So, while we’re all trying to figure out how to spend time with our nearest and dearest this Christmas, and pondering what present would knock their socks off, perhaps the answer is in fact very simple, and would mean so much more.

Have you thought about how much someone has helped you, and that while you may have thanked them at the time, maybe you haven’t really found the time to tell them how much it actually meant to you?

Maybe, in this strange world we’re all living in, we should think about giving different kinds of gifts this year… Perhaps the joy of real connection and appreciation is worth more than all the perfumes and chocolates?

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