The end of the year is approaching with quite some speed. It seems that the majority of conversations, shop windows, TV adverts and music around us are geared for one thing. Christmas.
Now, for some people, this is amazing. Christmas marks the zenith or their year.
They love it and because they love it, they want everyone else to be infected with Christmas cheer. However, not everyone feels the same at this time of year, in fact, this time of year can be the most difficult, troubling and isolating time of year.
For those people, it is the season of sadness and not of joy, a reminder of those they’ve lost or things they do not have or are unable to give.
Christmas is supposed to be the “season of goodwill among men” a designated period to make time to spread love and kindness with no selfish intent. To think of others.
To share. To be kind. To embrace those around us – family or not. Unfortunately, though, Christmas can also be a time for derision (You know the types, “They put their decorations up too early” Vs “They’re a humbug”) or excess. There are people who are alone or in broken and toxic situations which are exacerbated at this time of year.
Rates of domestic violence soar over the Christmas period and rates of offending increase because people would rather be in prison than in a society where they are alone, cold and hungry whilst others gorge themselves.
People who are grieving face a Christmas full of painful reminders and are expected to be full of cheer so they don’t spoil the christmas spirit.
Looked after and vulnerable children struggle with anxiety and the expectations of their peers who cannot understand why they are negative about Christmas or why their behaviour has changed – choosing to argue with their friends instead of talking about their problems and pain.
People with little money rub shoulders with people who do not realise that putting food on the table is a struggle (without presents, decorations and heating costs on top.) There can be many challenges our fellow man faces that we become too blind to see whilst we are wrapped up in our own joy and excitement.
Often, people facing such difficult circumstances don’t want to trouble you “be the black cloud” or “bring down the mood.”
So at a time that is focused on good cheer and thinking of others, what do you do if you don’t feel the Christmas spirit or you have a friend or loved one who suffers at this time of year?
Childline have shared a video about situations that cause difficulties over Christmas and the number one tip is “To concentrate on you.” It also has some great advice on how to help friends or loved ones who struggle over Christmas “Don’t ignore them. Invite them out with you…”
Ask for help, be in the company of people and talk to people you trust. If you would rather talk to an organisation then here are those all-important numbers:
Childline 0800 1111.
Samaritans 01227 457777 (local call charges apply)
National telephone: 116 123 (this number is free to call)
Here is the official guide from the Samaritans about how to listen to someone who needs you.
It is a real skill and invaluable way in supporting people. If you know someone who is struggling or is likely to have a difficult time over Christmas why don’t you invite them out with you or (if you can) offer them to spend Christmas Day with you? They may decline but they will be touched that you thought of them.
Being Kind to Yourself in the Season of Goodwill
A handful of tips that may help you feel better in the short term. Noone can force you to feel better and if people ‘badger’ you, you may resent it. Feeling better needs to begin with you and taking steps to look after yourself. There is no rush.
Tip 1: We are our own worst critics and the hardest person to listen to is ourselves. You are allowed to listen to your gut instinct and your heart. It is not selfish to put your needs first when it hurts you not to do so.
If you are feeling very uncomfortable and feel the need to remove yourself from an unhealthy situation then do it – as long as the place you go to is safe. Ask for help. Text, call or message a friend if you need to talk. You’ll be surprised how many people would be willing to listen to you. If you would rather talk to someone removed from the situation please call Childline or the Samaritans.
Tip 2: Smile. It sounds so daft and perhaps trivial, but sometimes it can make the difference. As you walk along look up instead of down. Our body language affects our thinking, mindset, and behaviour.
Tip 3: Set yourself a realistic goal. You may feel very low but sometimes we want to be around people. If you do want to make plans for Christmas, if you don’t like the way you are feeling and want to get in the christmas spirit or to socialise, perhaps a goal would help. Being around positive people can be infectious. Privately say to yourself “I will go for x amount of time.” Once you’re there you may want to stay longer. If you need to leave earlier you can be proud that you have been for even a brief time.
Tip 4: Exercise. Yikes! When getting out of bed and breathing in and out feels like an achievement the idea of exercising can feel like an insurmountable task. This doesn’t mean running a marathon. Perhaps you could go for a short walk in the fresh air, just around the block, to a friend’s house or the local shop.
Tip 5: Write a card or a letter. Focusing on someone else and showing how much you appreciate them can make us feel better, give us perspective and alter our mindset. If you manage one, perhaps write another. Then set yourself the goal of sending or delivering them in person.
Tip 6: Dance. It. Out. Put on some music. Really loud and dance. Dance until you can’t dance anymore, until your thoughts have disappeared and it is automatic. You are on auto-pilot moving to music. It may even be fun…
Tip 7: It is ok to feel the way you do. You do not need to explain, justify or qualify yourself or your choices to anyone but it does help to talk to someone. If you do not feel you can talk to someone close to you, please call the helplines above. You are not alone.
Tip 8: Do not believe social media. People present a perfect life. You know how in our day to day lives we “wear masks”? Think of social media as an extension to this.
This blog is coming to its conclusion, but if I may say, I am not an expert. If you feel you need further support there is no shame in going to your GP for this. There should be no stigma in saying “I am not okay. Please help.”
We hope that your Christmas break is whatever you need it to be. Whether you are surrounded by loved ones, or in your pjs lounging in bed we hope you can be proud of who you are and the joy you bring to others – even if you do not recognise it in yourself at the moment. You matter. You are valued. Because we mean that we will wish you a Merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year and hope that this has been some help.