Self care at Christmas time
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Sophie Michaels nee Spiegler
18th December, 20170 Comments
During Christmas time, we often find clients feel extra pressure. Our awareness and concern spreads also to the homeless and children in care, in particular.
We do not underestimate the subtle impact of all the Christmas focused adverts, putting pressure on families to spend money they don’t have, believing that love and value can be communicated through a gift. We listen to the messages of these adverts – diamonds for love, well-chosen expensive gifts to ‘show you know and care’. The pressure builds towards this one day, to create perfection, against the backdrop of a world where perfection is deemed necessary, but achievable (which it is not!).
For many, Christmas means engaging with family; which may be looked forward to, perhaps a time for renewal of relationships, connection, laughter and a time for sharing.
But often, what it can mean is painful memories, family dynamics that knock an otherwise solid sense of self and for young people, the lack of refuge that school can provide and contact with others’; left to fend for themselves and witness damaging family interactions possibly including excessive drinking, neglect, emotional and physical abuse and domestic violence.
Knowing I won’t reach young people with this article is painful to me; however, knowing that we each carry an inner young person within us motivates me to share how we can soothe ourselves and protect ourselves at this time, whilst taking some nourishment if possible from this festive time.
Steps to taking care
- Be aware of your boundaries. Noticing how much you want to give of yourself and being conscious when you are nearing your thresholds.
- When you are near to your threshold take some time for yourself, perhaps 5 minutes of calm breathing in the safe haven of the bathroom! Give yourself permission in these 5 minutes or more to fully focus on breathing a putting your thoughts on hold.
- Balance party time and down time. Anxiety can be closely linked to lifestyle, so making sure you rest enough to not over exert yourself can make all the difference.
- Keep a diary; often loneliness can increase when we are surrounded by people who do not understand us. Keeping a diary of thoughts and feelings can keep the connection to ourselves, and give expression to our emotions.
- If you are travelling away from home, take a loved object with you; perhaps a loved soft toy, a small stone, a photo or a favourite book. When you feel stressed out, look at your object and be reminded of the safety of your own space/home.
- Call someone you trust to talk to. Let them know you might find the holidays tough and discuss a care plan with them. Talking through your existing “go to” ways of coping gives your trusted person a chance to remind you of the options when you feel unhappy. Maybe write a list with them.
- Take a walk. 5 minutes, 30 minutes or 60 minutes can all make the difference. Not only will you be releasing some feel good hormones, fresh air and nature can help to put things into perspective and allow you to see light at the end of the tunnel.
- Identify a piece of calming music. Music has been proven to help the body move into a more relaxed state. Download the track and keep ear phones near you. Play the track when you feel like it’s all getting too much.
- Magnesium bath salts - unfortunately modern day diets mean most of us are magnesium deficient. We need this vital nutrient for our brains to be able to switch off and benefit from deep sleep. Plus, if you have been crying, rehydrating in the bath can help to replace that lost water and salts.
- Write yourself a permission slip to have fun. Literally - write the slip as though you were still at school. Sometimes, we’re our own worst enemies and allow the internal chitter chatter from stop us from letting go and having a good time. The slip gives an intention, then think of what your inner child really wants to do and do it!
Whatever this festive time looks like for you, it’s so important to take care of yourself and consider your own needs. It’s not selfish to meet your own needs, it’s imperative. And then, if you have energy, love and generosity left over to share, that’s great too! You’ll be able to give from a more authentic place if you have looked after your basic needs - after all, no one can pour from an empty cup!
About the author
I offer one to one counselling for adults and have experience in working with many aspects of change: Family, personal and career change, including but not limited to childhood trauma, abuse and neglect, change in life direction, dysfunctional family dynamics, self-harm and difficulties in romantic relationships.
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