As a therapist, I recognise that this time of year can be a struggle, and that there are a lots of reasons for this.
People living with the absence or loss of loved ones, for whatever reason, often find that this time of year pulls their feelings of sadness and isolation into even sharper focus.
It is almost impossible to avoid the seemingly endless barrage of scenes of happy, laughing people, all spending the festive season with loving families that we are bombarded with by the media.
This can make it even harder for those who are estranged from their families, or for those who feel that they have to go ‘home’ for the holidays even though they do not want to.
This period of enforced physical and emotional proximity to people that we have consciously tried to distance ourselves from for the rest of the year can take a huge toll on our mental well being.
For those who struggle with feelings of anxiety...whether it is social anxiety, or anxiety around food, alcohol, appearance etc, the constant pressures to ‘be sociable’, ‘eat more’, ‘have another drink’, can feel increasingly overwhelming.
Also, it can feel very difficult to resist the financial strain of trying to ensure that our loved ones get plenty of gifts, and that our cupboards are overflowing with sumptuous food for every day of the holiday.
So, what can we do about it?
1. Take time for self care
This is always important, but particularly so at this time of year when we are flooded with messages about being kind to others and putting their needs first.
It is worth remembering that none of us can pour from an empty cup, so if you need some alone time, however brief, take it.
Go for a walk or a drive, watch a movie, read a book, play with the dog, enjoy a cup of tea in a qui-et room, treat yourself to a relaxing bubble bath. Give yourself permission to do whatever you need to do to keep yourself in a good mental place.
2. Maintain boundaries
This relates to the above. Do not let others trample over your boundaries just because “It’s Christmas!” If you do not want to have another drink/eat another mince pie/go to that party, then say “No” and do not feel bad about it. Remember, no is a complete sentence, it requires no explanation.
Try to stay in contact with those who make you feel happy and positive. This might mean making a quick phone call, or sending texts to other family members, friends, or neighbours. It might mean stroking the cat, or taking the dog for a walk. It is important to stay connected, as this can help ground you if you start to feel unanchored.
4. Avoid social media
Social media can be a blessing, but it can also be a curse. Facebook and Instagram etc are known to exacerbate feelings of isolation, loneliness, and general discontent with our everyday lives. These feelings can be magnified even more at Christmas time.
5. Go outside
Take a deep breath, go for a walk, feel the breeze on your face, look at the clouds, count the stars…..and try to just ‘be’. Try to exist completely in the moment. If you find mindfulness tech-niques helpful, this is a great time to use them.