Christmas - a time of joy?
Christmas is often thought of as a time of joy and giving, a time for families to gather and share. Yet for many it can be a time of sadness, loneliness, increased anxiety and stress.
In this busy world, it is often difficult to stop and take time to think about our needs, and as Christmas approaches the pressures increase to meet the expectations of children, parents, brothers and sisters. There is an underlying drive to 'perform' and to buy, fed by media advertising and the vast world of commercialism.
In families where tensions and conflict already exist, the prospect of being merged for a lengthy period of time can heighten anxieties already present, leading to increased tensions and further conflict.
Some families may have experienced a recent bereavement or separation, so this time of year becomes filled with sadness and longing as they grieve the loss of the one who is gone and can no longer share the joy. Yet, there still can be the external expectations to join in celebrations, and family reunions, with phrases like "you'll feel better in company", or "it will be good for you to get out".
So what of our own needs at this time, when the focus is on the wishes of everyone else. To find the time and space to separate our needs from those of others is not always easy, and for those of us with a need to please, or anxious to avoid conflict, recognising what we need and expressing it, is even more challenging.
The first step is to recognise when we are under pressure, feeling anxious or in conflict with some internal message. Once we have identified the inner anxiety, it is time to take time out. Five or ten minutes in a quiet space, on our own to breathe deeply in and out allows stresses and anxieties to reduce and can help regain perspective. Once the feeling of pressure has lessened, ask yourself, "what do I need right now?" If you can recognise what you want or need, then you are half way there. The next steps can be the most challenging, so take time to take a few more deep breaths, letting them out slowly as this calms the part of the brain that responds to stress and anxiety.
Now, having identified what you need, acknowledge that your need is as important as the needs of anyone else and hold onto that thought while you seek out someone who will be receptive to you asking for that need to be met. It maybe that you cannot find someone to listen, or that person says no, that is their choice. It does not mean that your need was not important, or too much, just that they were not able or willing to do what you asked. The important thing to remember is that you identified what you needed and had the courage to ask. And sometimes, in recognising it, we realise it is something we can do for ourselves, even if others do not agree.
At this hectic time of year particularly, it is essential that we recognise our own needs and take measures in finding ways of meeting them. If we ignore or discount our needs they do not go away, but build underlying resentments and, like a secretly stoked fire will feed the stresses and anxieties already present, leading to greater unhappiness and conflict.
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About Lindsey Wilde
I am a qualified relational counsellor with a practice run from my home in Uckfield. I see children, young people, couples, individuals and families. I have many years experience with children and families gained working as a nurse in the NHS and private sector. My work covers anxiety, relationships, self-image, attachment, loss, bullying & stress.