Look after yourself this Christmas
The festive season can be a particularly demanding, or even difficult, time for many people, so Just ‘B’, Saint Michael’s specialist support service, is offering some useful tips and advice to help combat the stresses and strains the season brings.
Tony Collins, from the Just ‘B’ service, based at Burton House on Hookstone Oval, said: “For those of us who celebrate Christmas, this can be a particularly demanding time.
“We like to think of it as being a time for enjoyment and getting together with family and friends, but for some people it can be stressful, lonely and sad, while for others it involves a lot of expectation, work, shopping, organisation and juggling of commitments.”
Tony explained that one group of people for whom Christmas can be very difficult are those affected by grief.
After a bereavement, there are many ‘firsts’ people have to go through – birthdays, anniversaries and holidays.
For those spending their first Christmas without a loved one, Tony says: “Don’t bottle up your grief; embrace the memories of the person who is missing, talk about them and give yourself permission to cry as and when you need to.
“Laughter is normal too. People often feel that by having fun they are in some way being disloyal to the person they love,” says Tony, who explains that learning to laugh again is part of the process of healing and living with your grief.
Even when someone has been living with their bereavement for a number of years, Tony explains how the festive period can bring up painful feelings, and offers advice to make things that little bit easier: “Don’t feel under pressure to ‘cope’. Try to let others know how you are feeling and how you would like to be comforted – whether that means giving you space to be alone with time to reflect, or being there to give you a hug.”
Some people find it helpful to create new traditions, such as lighting a special candle in memory, or spending Christmas somewhere different.
For other people Christmas can be difficult due to isolation, family tensions, financial worries or mental health issues.
Months of build-up and expectation are followed by a period of time when the usual everyday activities suddenly come to a halt, leaving many feeling out of step and alone.
“The important thing to remember is you are not alone. Christmas can set up unrealistic expectations, and this can be overwhelming for many people, who feel pressure to ‘get into the spirit’ of things and have fun, “ said Tony.
Tony stresses that one way to support yourself is ‘to do what feels right for you, whether that is seeking support from family, friends, or local social and community groups, or breaking with tradition and doing something completely different.
“Make time to relax by doing something you enjoy, and if you feel you need extra support, there are many organisations that can help.”
Ways to look after yourself at Christmas
- Be realistic about what can be achieved and afforded. Don’t aim for perfection and get disappointed.
- Share the work out. Don’t take on every responsibility, such as shopping, cooking and coordinating engagements just because you always do. Try to get others involved and delegate tasks – people are often grateful to be asked.
- Plan in advance. Planning what you want to spend, what you do or don’t want to be a feature of your Christmas – or indeed whom! – and making sure things aren’t left to the last minute are crucial to achieving this.
- Make time for yourself. Doing something for yourself that you enjoy, no matter how small, can be a great psychological break from the stress of Christmas.
- Be careful with your alcohol consumption. Remember too much can be a depressant.
- Do what feels right for you. Surround yourself with things that comfort you whether you want to be alone, or surrounded by people, don’t feel under pressure to fit in with others’ expectations of how you should spend your Christmas.
- If you find yourself on your own for Christmas, there are many things you can do to make it special. Plan to spend time doing things that make you happy whether it is country walking, watching a favourite movie or travelling. There are numerous travel companies that cater for single people and many have specific Christmas deals.
- If you feel you may experience loneliness over the Christmas period, pick up the phone to friends or family, or an established support line. Many online forums also offer you the chance to connect with others in a similar position to you.
- Don’t spend too much time alone and don’t isolate yourself – as this can make things more difficult for you.
- If you are living with bereavement over Christmas, remember, tears are a normal part of the grief journey, and so is laughter – moments of happiness or humour don’t mean that you have forgotten the person that has died, but that you are learning to live with your grief.
- People express grief in different ways and children can often be extremely good at covering it up. They may be excited about Christmas when you are not, or vice versa. This doesn’t mean that they are not feeling the loss just that they are coping with it differently.
- Some people find it helpful to create new traditions or new customs to pay tribute to loved ones. Don’t feel guilty about changing your routine, or about keeping routines that are important to you – whether you spend Christmas somewhere new, or lay your loved one’s place at the dinner table, do what makes you feel comfortable.
- Talk to someone. It sounds obvious but feeling low at this time of the year is perfectly normal for many people. Talk to a friend or family member.
- Remember it’s ok not to feel ok – Don’t try to get through it yourself. If you feel things may be getting too much, remember that many services are open and there to support you, such as church or community groups offering social lunches and events. There are also many helplines available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Don’t hesitate to call them if you need support.
- Have contact numbers to hand if you go into crisis.
Just ‘B’ is one of the services provided by Saint Michael’s Hospice. The services provided by Just ‘B’ are free at the point of need and are not dependant on a person’s ability to pay.
Just ‘B’ is able to support these individuals thanks to the donations and contributions from the public. For more information visit www.saintmichaelshospice.org