Christmas time is well and truly here; it is everywhere and unavoidable. Even those we would consider to have ‘good mental health’ can still find the holidays stressful, overwhelming and disappointing.
Depression can leave us feeling very isolated and the fact you may be finding it difficult to enjoy this time of year can bring you down even more – it is the season to be jolly after all.
Anxiety around social events and visiting those who we rarely see can send us into panic mode. The pressure for this time of year to be a magical, wonderful experience for all the family can be too much - and this is for those who have family and loved ones around them. It can also be a huge reminder of those who are sadly no longer with us.
Christmas can be expensive and for those who are having financial difficulties Christmas can be unbearable. There is no getting away from the expectation to give gifts, overindulge with luxury food, decorate the home and buy that new party frock. Even if we have made a conscious effort to have a quiet and modest Christmas, the plague of adverts demonstrating how we “should” be doing Christmas can leave us with feelings of guilt, worthlessness and isolation.
With an emphasis on excess at this time of year, I’d also like to reach out to those struggling with an eating disorder and/or alcohol misuse issues and hope that you have support at this time of year. There are some suitable helpline numbers at the end of this blog post.
To help support those of you that may be having a difficult Christmas this year, I have put together a few ideas on how to get through it and take care of you:
Plan ahead and prepare yourself for difficult encounters; accept your own and others imperfections and avoid social comparisons. Give yourself permission to cut back on holiday celebrations, permission to feel emotions other than forced happiness and permission to gently but firmly say “no” to family and friends.
Don’t beat yourself up over feeling empty instead of full of the joy of the season; it’s not your fault, and you’re not a bad person because of it. Be compassionate and understanding towards yourself.
Realising that you are not alone in how you are feeling can help; talking with others who going through similar difficulties can help us feel comfort and more connected. Try talking with family, friends, a professional, join a support group or connect with online forums.
Let others know how you feel; to people who know you’re struggling explain that you’re not up to doing all the holiday stuff this year. To people who don’t know what you’re going through prepare something that you feel comfortable saying in advance such as “I’m just too busy, I can’t find the time.”
Express yourself; we can feel better when we talk and share our sadness with someone else but this is not always possible. If you can’t talk write your feelings down, draw, paint, create, cry, sing, exercise – find out what works for you.
Connect with those no longer here; loss can make us feel alone especially during times of festivity. Trying to stay in touch with lost loved ones can help, such as visiting their grave or a place you shared, holding onto a photograph, sharing a memory, or carrying on with usual traditions.
Remember good memories; if you’re feeling sad, thinking about happy times can bring us comfort and can give us hope for a better future. Recognise that the way we feel right now will not be this way forever.
Spend time with the people who make you feel good. Christmas adverts portraying happy families can be hard at this time of year. Understanding that your idea of how a family ‘should’ be is often very different to how it actually is - and that’s okay. Being around people who may not be a ‘traditional’ family can remind us that here is no such thing as a ‘normal’ family or ‘perfect’ situation.
Take the break but make it your own. There may be many reasons why you don’t enjoy Christmas, so spend the day doing things you really enjoy with the people you want. Watch the films you enjoy, prepare and eat the food you like, play sport/exercise, help out in the community, or simply enjoy some ‘you’ time.
Whatever you have planned over the holidays, please make it your own and make it the merriest you possibly can.
Helpful Numbers To Call For Support
Whatever you're going through, call us free any time, from any phone on 116 123.
Call: 116 123
Offers emotional support and information/literature on Mental Health and related matters to the people of Wales.
Freephone: 0800 132 737
Text ‘help’ to: 81066
Free and Confidential Help for Young People in the UK.
Call: 0800 1111
The national UK charity dedicated to the prevention of young suicide.
Call: 0800 068 41 41
Text: 07786 209697
Cruse Bereavement Care
Somewhere to turn when someone dies.
Call: 0808 808 1677
The mental health charity to ensure no one has to face a mental health problem alone.
Call: 0300 123 3393
Age UK is the country's largest charity dedicated to helping everyone make the most of later life.
Call: 0800 678 1174
ASSIST Trauma Care employs experienced therapists trained to work with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Call: 01788 560800
Money Advice Service
Provides free and impartital money advice.
Call: 0800 138 7777
Call: 0808 808 4000
The way we work is very simple - it is one alcoholic talking to another.
Call: 0800 9177 650
Beat provides a helpline for adults and young people offering support and information about eating disorders.
Call: 0300 123 3355
Anorexia Bulimia Care
ABC is a national UK eating disorders organization with over 25 years experience.
Call: 03000 11 12 13 Option 1: Support Line Option 2: Family and friends
I welcome any feedback; comments or thoughts and you can contact me here.
If you are struggling this Christmas or with any other issues that counselling could help with please do get in touch for a free consultation.