Self-Care at Christmas – sometimes Christmas can be a hard time for people. Some psychotherapists and counselling centres close over the Christmas period, and this can be problematic for clients who are anxious or depressed, or those who just feel that Christmas is a time they would rather not take part in, and now also have to go through it without their support system of therapy.
Christmas for those who have lost a loved one can be an upsetting time where they are reminded of a special person lost. For those living alone, or estranged from family or loved ones, there is no Christmas cheer. Instead, there is loneliness, maybe feelings of rejection and resentment, and a general feeling of wanting the whole Christmas period to just be over.
Sometimes even when people do enjoy Christmas and spend it with immediate and extended family, they can be upset when a few drinks are had and all the wretched family politics comes to the fore, leading to arguments and general upset. Basically, we know that Christmas is supposed to be a time of good cheer and merriment, but let’s face it, that’s not how it really is for us all. For some it’s a time of poverty, financial worry, (particularly with inflation and recent and consistent fuel and energy price hikes) and can be much more of a headache than a time of family love and happiness.
So what can be done to alleviate some of the stress, worry and agitation? For those who have lost a loved one, it may be best to organise to spend time with friends, or with other family members and not to be alone lost in thoughts and upset. For those living alone or estranged from family this year, it may be a good idea to see what a friend is up to and maybe join in with them. Sometimes people may feel that they don’t want to burden anyone else, or don’t accept offers to join other families for Christmas because they are embarrassed about being alone without family support. Though it’s okay to accept support when it is offered.
Lots of people spend Christmas alone, and you would not be alone in that! So, for this year, why not take the offer made to you and see how it goes? There are likewise people who detest spending Christmas with anyone and would much rather spend it alone. Whatever works for you! For those who need support over the holiday season, generally there are emergency counselling services available over the Christmas time that people can avail of if necessary.
Taking a Christmas Break from Therapy
For those with no therapy over the holidays, the reaction to finding that there will be a Christmas break is varied. Some who find therapy to be mentally, and emotionally hard work may be glad of time off. During the break they can switch off for a while, maybe even reconnect with themselves and others around them using the new skill sets they have learned in therapy to improve their relationships. They may reflect on how therapy has been going for them to date and may think of things they like, or dislike, or may want to change or discuss with the therapist after the break.
Some clients feel that they will manage without therapy once the therapist has prepared them in advance that there will be a break, and this allows clients the time to put plans in place to ensure that there is a friend or family member to count on if they need support. Some clients are distraught that their much-needed therapy and support system has come to a halt at a time they feel they need it most. As mentioned already, there are emergency counselling services available over the Christmas period. This time without therapy may be a good opportunity for clients dependent on therapy, to find their own autonomy through realising that they can manage by themselves and perhaps better than they thought without their therapist.
The break may provide an opportunity for this client to reaffirm future goals for themselves, to reflect on what they want from life, from their relationships, careers, and from themselves. They can certainly take note of any feelings or thoughts that occurred to them over the Christmas break, whether it’s feelings of abandonment, rejection, feeling lost, lonely, or feeling that in fact they managed quite well on their own and actually enjoyed aspects of Christmas and enjoyed figuring things out for themselves.
Not Alone but Overwhelmed
For the people pleaser at Christmas time, this may be a period of high expectations on you, where you feel obligated or pressurised into organising Christmas, or taking on particular roles or tasks that you don’t want to, or don’t know how to say no to. This person would benefit from setting up healthy boundaries without feeling guilt or shame for saying no.
Basically, if you find you have negative feelings toward a person who requests you to do something that you feel unhappy with or resentful of, then these feelings show that your heart isn’t really in it if you don’t want to do this willingly or at least with a degree of feeling that this is okay for a while. If you feel miserable at the prospect of being pulled into something you are uncomfortable with then this is a red flag that the situation is wrong for you to be a part of. In this case, you can say no, and put yourself first this time. It is okay to disappoint people sometimes in order to look after yourself.
However, you find yourself this Christmas, help and support is there.
The article is written by Michelle Fowler, fully qualified and pre-accredited Psychotherapist at The DMC Clinic. If you would like to discuss how any of the topics mentioned above are impacting your mental health, please contact The DMC Clinic to arrange an appointment.
*Please note The DMC Clinic is closed Monday 19th December for Christmas and will re-open on Tuesday 3rd January. In the meantime, if you feel you are in crisis, feel at risk of suicide or need urgent support, please remember there are also 24/7 free resources available including Pieta House 1-800-247-247. Also reach out to your G.P, Care Doc or local Accident and Emergency Department, family members or friends for support*