It's the most wonderful time of the year .... or is it? Some people truly believe this is the season to be jolly, whilst others struggle with grief, loneliness, anxiety, and even trauma at this time of year.
I recently posted on my social media sites, a worksheet to help people who are worried about the approaching festivities, quite a few people found it useful, and some asked further questions around it. This blog contains all the elements of the template but with some examples and a bit more information to help anyone who needs it at this time of the year. You can download it at the end of the article to fill in for yourself.
Let's get started with thinking about potential triggers over the Christmas holidays.
Now these can come from a vast range of areas, some may seem quite harmless but provoke big feelings to deal with and others are may be obviously damaging. Some examples could be, bumping into an ex, feeling criticised by a parent, child care arrangements, financial difficulty, overeating, comparisons to others, the absence of someone, alcohol consumption or family conflict. You will know the issues for you that tend to generate hurt or create worry.
Before you fall headlong into these situations, take a pause and look for ways to avoid them. What can you actually do, using all of your brain power and resources to either avoid the triggering situation all together or reduce the time spent in it? If even thinking about this provokes you in some way, ask a trusted friend or colleague for some ideas too. Some examples could be, not visiting certain people or places, speaking up front about topics of conversation, agree a budget you can afford and stick to it, enlist support or mediators... you get the idea? Good.
Some situations will be unavoidable and really painful though, I know that. How good are you at recognising the signs when things are getting really uncomfortable for you though, and that it may be intolerable?
You may feel a tightness in your chest, you may have a squirmy tummy, your breathing may be faster. You could feel teary, irritated, fidgety.
We all react in different ways, just have a ponder over the physical and emotional signs for you that you are struggling and use them as calls to action to make a change.
What are some great ways to distract yourself when things get a bit much? Write as many as you can down now while you are not struggling and are at your most resourceful. It may be that you need to get outside into the fresh air, that you do some Box Breathing (breathe in for the count of 4, hold for 4, out for 4 and hold for 4), that you exercise, get some space alone, read a book, text a friend, go on TikTok. Again ask those close to you for more ideas.
What else helps you when you feel this way, note as many things as possible please. A bath, smelling a certain fragrance, visiting a certain place, sleep, playing a game on your phone, visiting a positive Insta account, is there an app like Calm or Headspace that you use? What are things that you find comforting or reassuring? What builds your resilience and strengthens your resolve?
Now this is important, you are not in this alone, if you are feeling like this who are you going to reach out to for support?
These could be friends, colleagues, family members, or professional organisations and charities.
Make sure you have their numbers in your phone, and make a note of who you would contact, and even why, you may need reminding of that if you are troubled and caught up in the moment.
Samaritans, Mind, CALM, Shout, Age UK, Switchboard there are countless organisations if you need them, I can share numbers, there are also some in my previous blog Belonging.
Finally, dig deep, what other resources and ideas can you turn to?
Why not make a playlist that lightens your mood, or takes you to a place that is more tolerable or comforting?
Can you light a candle for an absent loved one to remember them during this special day?
If you were able to do absolutely anything, what ideas would you bring to the table?
How can you go about making any elements of that happen?
Who needs to give you permission to look after yourself this Christmas and to find the best ways to cope, you may just find it is you.
If you need any coaching support from me to support any element of this, get in touch, and I hope you can cope very well this Christmas.