Merry Christmas one and all! Happy Hanukah, Kwanzaa or whatever you choose to celebrate this month!
However despite the often overwhelming pressure to ‘have fun’ at this time of year, many of us can find it an incredibly tough few weeks. Our problems don’t tend to evaporate at the first sight of egg-nog, so this festive period can become an additional pressure on top of existing issues. Some of us may be struggling with bereavement, job loss, financial strain, illness or mental health issues.
So I thought it might be useful to list a few things we can watch out for maybe be wary of affecting our loved ones. Bits and bobs we might not normally hear over the deafening sounds of festive frivolity.
- Try to pay attention to the behaviour of friends and family - mental health conditions can vary, which makes it difficult to recognise when someone might be struggling, but often a small change in behaviour or temperament could indicate someone is perhaps anxious or depressed.
- don’t make assumptions - it can be upsetting to hear a loved one is suffering especially at this time of year, however it's not your job to diagnose nor attempt to 'cure' them. Listen with an open mind and resist the temptation to give advice, as it can often come across as judgmental.
- If someone comes to you with a problem, they often don’t want a solution, just someone to listen in the first instance. Allow loved ones to lead any discussion at their own pace and try not to second guess their feelings.
- Remember that not everyone finds Christmas positive - it often raises nostalgic memories which can be a difficult and painful. Bereavements, job losses, financial pressures & the need to spend a lot of time together after long periods of not seeing family and friends can exacerbate tensions.
- be encouraging - Christmas is stressful, and despite the push for everyone to get together this pressure can cause people to isolate themselves from loved ones. Encouragement may be offering someone the space to confide in you about how they're feeling, or simply keeping them company.
- sit down and talk - show you're willing to listen to loved ones about their problems. If you can meet in person, monitor your body language and focus your attention so your loved one feels a priority. If contact is over the phone, keep it regular.
- take care of you- caring for an ill family member or friend can be incredibly stressful, and you may need emotional support, too. Likewise, a loved one may require specialized help you may be unable to provide. If so, try to encourage them to talk with others or offer to accompany them to a GP.
- don't enforce fun - it’s important not to be too pushy, and allow those with anxiety to breathe and decide their best way of 'being' during the festive season
- keep a routine- mounting social engagements disrupting normal routines can be anxiety-inducing. When someone suffers from anxiety, it’s vital not to put additional pressure on them to do more than they feel comfortable with or force them into situations before they feel ready
- be aware of triggers- with the pressure to socialise at Christmas, there's also the temptation to overindulge. Be mindful that not everyone is able to join in; illnesses, addictions, mental health issues can all be exacerbated if people are goaded into the festive indulgence
- If you or anyone you know is finding things difficult right now there are some links below to great mental health organisations below. The Samaritans helpline is also free on 116 123. Big love and see you in 2019 x x x x x x