13 Dec How are you caring for yourself this Christmas?
It is December and silly season is upon us once again. For those of us who celebrate this holiday, some will be decorating houses, spending up a storm and “cheersing” (yep, I am making it a word) to Christmas merriment. But not everyone will be feeling festive and merry. For some, Christmas can be a time that highlights for them family frictions, isolation, financial stress, social anxiety or grief.
So, how can you look after yourself at this time of year? Firstly, know that it is okay if you don’t want to celebrate this holiday period. We all have a right to refuse invitations, choose not to put up a tree, choose not to partake in gift or card giving without explanation or apology.
If you find a particular aspect of the holidays hard then acknowledge this and look at what it is that causes you distress. That way, you can try to ask yourself what support you may need around the challenge.
If you are struggling financially and feel the strain of Christmas and feel pressure to find money to buy presents, then don’t ignore this.
- Make a budget. Look at your finances and decide what, if anything, you can spare.
- Ensure that you won’t leave yourself in debt or going without essentials to try to buy a present for someone.
- Know that you can contribute to people and let them know you are thinking of them without spending money.
- You could let people know that you won’t be participating in gifts but that you want to share some time with them and make memories.
- You could make them something, food or a card or a framed photograph.
- You could offer them something you already have, a favourite book perhaps?
What or Who about the family connections will cause you distress? Is it a particular person? Is it a particular section of family? Acknowledgment is key. First allow yourself to admit that you find that difficult.
How can you minimize the distress?
- Is it possible for you to not spend time with that person? If so, great protect yourself by staying away.
- If not, is there someone who can help you by being with you to support you or act as a buffer?
- Come up with a plan around how to protect yourself from the people that challenge you.
- Prepare some grounding techniques for when you find yourself overwhelmed. Focusing on your breathing or giving yourself a particular time frame as to when you will be able to leave could be helpful.
Maybe you generally feel uneasy in social situations and so holidays amplify these feelings for you. As above, firstly admitting that this is difficult for you is the first step. Then working to minimize the stresses where possible.
Have a sentence on hand that you want to use to decline social invitations. You don’t need to apologise for preferring solitude, but if you do have a planned way of declining it may lessen the stress around being invited places.
When you do find yourself in gatherings and feeling uneasy have some planned grounding techniques ready for when things become overwhelming. Again, as above, focusing on breathing is a great way to stay present or observing your surroundings. You could try this exercise:
- List 5 things you can see
- List 4 things you can hear
- List 3 things you can feel
- List 2 things you can smell (or call to mind your favourite smells)
- List 1 thing you can taste (or call to mind your favourite taste).
Maybe Christmas is a time that makes you feel alone and isolated but know that you don’t have to be alone. There are community groups and online communities that can be helpful to ease the feelings of isolation.
Is there anyone that you can talk to and let them know that you feel this way? Sometimes, people are so busy with what is happening in their lives that they may not pick up on cues or think to ask you how you are feeling. Whilst I understand this can be confronting or for some, not possible, if it is possible to reach out then do. Maybe there is a neighbor or friend that you could invite to share a Christmas cuppa with you? Maybe let them know you struggle at this time of year?
I understand that it may be hard to do this. Online communities can be great such as Facebook groups etc. There is a local Southern Highlands SEMPI group run by a psychologist Alyse, which is a great source of connection.
You could also contact your local Salvos to ask about community connection services over the Christmas period.
Grief and Loss
When you are grieving or have experienced a loss Christmas, or any holiday can be a time when this is highlighted. A time when you would normally have been connecting with the person you have lost.
Not wanting to harp on but here I am again with the message of acknowledgment. This is an important first step, notice it and allow it to be, allow yourself to feel sad about your loss.
Know that you can honour the person and that remembering can be helpful. Do you have some way of connecting with the memory of the person you are missing maybe a ritual, a food, a tradition or a particular decoration that you can use to connect with the memory of them?
Reaching out and letting people know that you are feeling this way can be a lifeline, link in with your supports maybe that is family or friends, your healthcare providers or therapists. Let them know that you are finding this time of year more challenging.
The main thing is to keep checking in with yourself, asking how you are feeling and if you are sensing that you are becoming overwhelmed try to establish what supports you need. Use the tips above and know that you can always reach out for an appointment with me, however please note Nest Counselling will be closed from Thursday 20th December, opening Monday 14th January 2018. In a crisis after hours please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
If you are unsure if therapy is right for you, check out my last blog post “What actually happens at therapy?”