For many, this is a joyous time of year with families gathering for fun times. For others, it's a sad and stressful time when anxiety, loneliness and depression can peak. Taking a proactive approach to self-care during this time will help us get through.
I've always found Christmas a challenging time of year. When I was younger I struggled with sadness and depression around the devastating loss of my mother as a 12 year old and just how much I missed her. She made Christmas such a special time for all of us. We each had an array of gifts she'd carefully chosen, wrapped and hidden away until Christmas Eve when she and Dad would bring them out after we'd been to midnight mass. Then on the day itself she prepared the most beautiful Christmas dinner we'd all sit down to at lunchtime. It was special and I'm fortunate to have beautiful memories. I'm very aware that others did not have that experience as a child. Instead they perhaps lived through a time of intense family stress with finances being stretched, an over consumption of alcohol and arguments.
Both of these situations, and many in between, exist out there in the world at this time of year. It's a joyful time and it's a sad time. We may be triggered by the situations we find ourselves in, and those around us may be too. Being aware of our own thoughts and feelings ahead of time is a very useful way to prepare. This year, we have the added stress of the global pandemic, the fatigue people are feeling around that, and the separation that sadly has occurred.
When this time of year approaches, I find it useful to have strategies to manage my thoughts and feelings, and to take care of myself.
Take time to reflect. Observing your thoughts and feelings about the time of year will help you recognise why you might be feeling a little sad, low, irritated or stressed. If you can join the dots, you will know why you are feeling a certain way.
Get the feelings out. Expressing those feelings with journalling, and feeling the emotions fully will help you uncover what may be underneath them, and it will get them out which is always healthy.
Make a plan. Empower yourself by being proactive about how you deal with the holiday season. Think about how you've been triggered in the past and make a plan to manage that. If it's a person, think about how you could take a different approach with them. If it's an event you attend, maybe you don't go or maybe you do but for a short period of time. Make a plan that works for you.
Take time out. If you find yourself in a situation where you feel overwhelmed, take a break. Going for a short walk or retiring to another room with a book or for a short meditation might be what you need to get you through.
Be kind to yourself. Plan some time or activities for yourself during this time. It might be a creative hobby you enjoy, reading, or just having time by yourself.
Remember to have fun when you can, even if you find this time of year very stressful. Make a point of keeping in contact with those people who fill your cup and enjoy a laugh with them as you navigate this time.