Since the last time I wrote something for this blog, there as been a multitude of different changes, developments and events that have impacted us all worldwide. There has been so much pain, loss and heartbreak throughout this year, that we really did hope that Christmas would be the positive note to round 2020 off with. Unfortunately due to the rise in the R-rate of COVID-19, the governments approach has had to take a drastic turn backwards, which has led to the majority of England either remaining or entering in to Tier 3, and the worst hit areas to be placed in Tier 4 over the festive period. This news was so devastating to receive for millions of people all across the country, and I can only offer my deepest and warmest wishes to all who have had their Christmas plans torn apart. Though I do not want anyone, no matter where they may be, to feel that there is simply no hope left for them and for them to suffer in silence or on their own during this unprecedented and extremely challenging time. So, with that, I wanted to put together some gentle words of support and guidance in the hope that you can gain something good from reading this to make this festive season one filled with compassion for others but most importantly for yourself.
It’s Absolutely Okay to Feel How You Feel
On top of the usual pressures some of us can feel around the Christmas period, we are in unprecedented circumstances that none of us have ever experienced before, which is causing us to have extremely complex emotional responses that may or may not be serving you very well. You may be feeling ‘ merry and bright’ or you may not want to ‘step into Christmas’ at all this year. There is no right or wrong way to respond to what has happened or what is currently going on, so I encourage you to acknowledge and respect how you are feeling and do what it in your best interest to see you through. You will certainly not be alone in how you are feeling and responding to this year, so you ought to not put yourself under the microscope, beat yourself up, feel any sense of guilt or shame around your emotions because it is absolutely okay to feel how you feel right now. Try not to resist against how you are feeling and instead invite it in and understand what you really need to do to be compassionate towards yourself.
Recognise What You Need To Do For Your Wellbeing
Once you are aware of how you feel, it is time to recognise what you can do to support your physical and mental wellbeing. The pressures to have the ‘perfect’ Christmas can be overwhelming in the best of times but I really do believe that it should not be your main priority, especially this year. It is YOU that needs to be on top of that priority list and what you can do that will make this time enjoyable or easier to cope with. Ask yourself “what can I do that brings me joy/comfort?”, “how can I make the most of my circumstances that will help get me through?” and “how can I take care of my physical and mental wellbeing?”. You could maybe think back to how you coped through previous lockdown experiences; what did you do that helped? what can you learn from previous experiences”. Do try to get a good amount of rest/sleep, get outdoors if possible to move your body and eat well without judgement on yourself. Whatever you do this Christmas, be compassionate and gentle with yourself, it is what you deserve.
Stay Connected With Those You Care About
We have been prevented from many social interactions and activities that we benefit from significantly. We are social beings therefore we have a fundamental need to connect and belong with other people, in order to support our overall health. Loneliness negatively impacts our physical and psychological health, so it is important to do our best to stat connected to others, especially close family and friends when we are unable to see them face-to-face. This is particularly important for those who are living on their own during social distance regulations, or who are no longer able to visit family or friends over Christmas. So it could be helpful to schedule in time over the coming weeks to keep in touch and share some time together even if you cannot be there in person. Whether this is through a phone call or a video group session, do try your best to schedule in time to catch up with those you care about and share some time together to bond and feel connected to one another even if you cannot be there in person. You may find that you are also supporting someone else that you love by reaching out to them, which would be an incredible feeling to have knowing that you are helping one another through social interaction. I know it is not the same as face-to-face but there will come a time when we will be able to again, though for now we can use modern technology to our advantage and form new ways of interacting to feel that sense of belonging we love to have.
Take A Social Media Break
One of the traps that we can fall into, particularly now in the social media age, is that we can compare ourselves to others; how they are feeling, what they are doing, what their situation is like, how well they are managing to keep a good routine together and now how they are spending Christmas. This can lead to exacerbating already negative thoughts and feelings which is the total opposite of what you deserve. Although we are all going through this together, we still have individual lives that will look different from one home to the next (or in social media’s case, from one curated feed to the next!). I encourage you to take a social media break over Christmas to enjoy this time how YOU wish to enjoy it given the circumstances. Even if this means spending a few less hours each day off your devices, this will allow you the opportunity to really tune into the present moment and focus on the things that matter to you and do what is best for your own personal wellbeing with a few less digital distractions.
Be Grateful For What You Do Have
Now, I do understand that this is rather cliche and may seem to be under-estimating your struggles but that is not at all what I believe. For as dark as this year has been, there is still so much to be grateful for. I am not referring to the materialistic things in life, I am referring to what gives us a good foundation to live a fulfilling life whatever that means for you. Although this may not be easy for you, I do trust that there is at least one thing that you can be grateful for right now and that is YOU. The very fact that you are reading this tells me that you have fought through all the adversity so far and made it here today, which is such an incredible thing to have achieved. Be proud and grateful of yourself for your courage and resilience to the extremely challenging experiences you have faced and continue to face – you are one incredible human being!
Ask For Help from Mental Health Services and Support
There is no reason for you to ever suffer in silence. You deserve to be cared for and to be heard. There is always someone out there that is willing to support you through whatever you are going through; you are not alone. If you notice that your negative emotions become so overwhelming that you are responding in an unhelpful manner then please do speak someone you trust, your GP and/or mental healthcare professional about the options available to you for support. Alternatively you can call a mental health helpline for confidential support. Here are a few helplines you can contact:
- Samaritans: 116 123
- BEAT: 0808 801 0677
- CALM: 0800 58 58 58
- Papyrus: 0800 068 4141
- Young Minds: 0800 018 2138
- The Mix (under 25s): 0808 808 4994
I am sending my love to you and hoping that you will be compassionate to yourself this Christmas.