Christmas and the New Year: Suggestions on getting through a difficult time
3rd December, 2012
All around us, people, shops and public spaces are getting ready for Christmas and the New year. The colours and sounds are intended to brighten spirits and lift our moods but for some people, this time of the year can be particularly difficult and bring up painful emotions.
The following five pointers can perhaps help you get through Christmas and the New Year.
1. Know that you are not alone
It is widely recognised that any major holidays are fraught with painful emotions for many people. For people who have lost a loved one or trying to cope with depression, anxiety or other mental health problems, this time of year can bring up deep feelings of loss, loneliness, stress and further anxiety. For those struggling with grief, whether the loss is recent or not, the holiday season undoubtedly makes us think of our friends and family, giving rise to complex and distressing emotions.
2. Avoid 'shoulds'
One of the most difficult aspects of this experience is when the world around you is at odds with how you feel on the inside, giving rise to a sense of isolation and disconnect even if you are in the company of friends and family. Many people feel a sense of pressure and guilt when they feel like they 'should' be participating in the cheer and festivities but can't make themselves feel better. The truth is that it is far more helpful to acknowledge how you feel and understand why you feel this way rather than force yourself to feel happy. We are all different and are entitled to our own feelings, thoughts and experiences even if they are different from how others around us seem to be feeling.
3. Boundaries are healthy
While being with friends and family can be a huge source of comfort for some people, for many others it can be an overwhelming experience. This is completely normal and it is completely okay to do as much as you feel comfortable doing. If you are worried about meeting people over the holiday period, it may help to think in advance about impending events, decide which ones you feel okay about attending and decline to attend the others. Succumbing to the pressure to please others, especially at this time of year, is not helpful in the long-term. Only you can know and judge your comfort levels and it is perfectly acceptable to draw a safe line to protect yourself from being overwhelmed.
4. Try to replace unhelpful coping strategies with safer ones
It can be tempting to use drugs or alcohol to deal with painful feelings and situations. However, it has been scientifically proven that drugs and alcohol can increase rather than decrease negative emotions such as anxiety or depression because of the way they impact on the body and blood chemistry. Instead, try to go for a walk, engage in relaxation exercises or inculcating some form of exercise into your routine. Exercise is proven to elevate our mood by releasing hormones that have a positive impact on how we feel.
5. Let it out
Find a way to vent your pain. If you feel like crying, it is okay to cry and let it out. Talk to someone you can trust. Seek counselling if it feels right. Finding someone with whom you can say how you feel and just be heard without feeling judged can be comforting. You are not alone in your experience and sharing your pain rather than holding it in can help you feel better.
Remember that you have the right to feel the way you feel.
Remember that you are not alone in feeling this way.
Remember that feelings and emotions also rise and fall at particular times of the year. Some times are harder than others... but you can get through it.
Remember that help is out there... you only have to ask for it.
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