Christmas can mean different things to different people, and it tends to bring a range of emotions and feelings – causing both joy and pain. Since beginning work as a Therapist, it is clear that when Christmas comes into view clients can experience anything from excitement to dread. To me it seems that there are three broad stockings that this falls into:
- People who look forward to Christmas with a sense of cheer and optimism
- People who see Christmas as a type of refuge. A safe haven in which they can call a ceasefire from the daily battle that has been raging in their lives/minds. “Once I can get to Christmas I can breathe and reassess”
- People who dread Christmas and fear the emotions that come along with it. The loneliness, the temptation to go back to bad habits, the expectation of having to be happy even though below the façade of cheer is grief, loneliness, anxiety and sadness. A reminder that things have not gone the way we had hoped. When will this all be over?
All of these are okay, and what is most important is to remember to support ourselves through each one of the above. When it comes to mental health, I believe that managing and supporting ourselves through the Christmas period and aftermath is vital. For The DMC Clinic clients past, present and future (this is the Scrooge in me) and to anyone else who struggles this time of year, as much as possible try to:
- Remind ourselves of the work you have done in and out of the therapy room that helps to insulate you during the challenging times. What works for you? What is good for you? Be extra vigilant to do more of the things that nourish you, and less of the things that consume you.
- In a time of giving, allow yourself to be selfish when it comes to your wellbeing. Watch out for the risk of fulfilling the expectations of others to the detriment of your mental health.
- Be selfless toward someone else. Lend an ear to a friend in need. Better still, make amends with a former friend in need. Reach out.
- Take a break from the mayhem. People can find the whole season somewhat overwhelming. Allow yourself to enjoy the smaller moments and not get swallowed up by the constant chaos. Catch a breath. Ground yourself.
- Remember that comparing yourself to others is ultimately fruitless. As much as possible, accept where you are right not.
- Plan ahead. Especially those who love Christmas, or who use it as ceasefire. Allocate some time to scaffold yourself for the post-Christmas come down. Stay healthy and manage your expectations.
Thank you to anyone who read any of the blogs during the year. My experience of writing them is a bit like my experience of Christmas. I never look forward to it, but I always seem to enjoy it. For me Christmas is a time to go easy on myself. Pull the brakes and try to ‘be present’. That’s why I am allowing myself to write a shorter blog this month.
Remember, the best present you can give yourself is to be present. Too cheesy? Have a great break!
The article is written by Noel, Trainee Counsellor 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.