Sleigh bells ringing, Christmas lights twinkling, festive songs blaring out in the shops and seasonal adverts on TV… when it’s that time of year, it can be virtually impossible to escape Christmas.
All well and good if you’re feeling in the festive spirit. But if you’re feeling stressed out, low, or lonely, Christmas can be a particularly difficult time.
Spending Christmas alone
If you don’t have anyone to share the holidays with, you may be dreading the thought of Christmas by yourself. It can be especially hard if you’ve recently lost a loved one, or gone through a relationship break up – naturally, you won’t feel much like celebrating, and can feel like you’re bringing others down when you do socialise.
Elderly people in particular are likely to be alone at this time of year, and winter can be an especially vulnerable time for them.
If you’re facing Christmas alone, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) recommends the following:
Be prepared. Plan ahead so you know you’ll be spending the day doing something you enjoy. This could be watching your favourite film, reading a good book, going for a walk or even taking a trip abroad.
Get involved. Helping out at a charity such as your local Samaritans centre or a homeless shelter is a very rewarding experience, which can also help to boost your self esteem.
Talk to others. Do you know of an elderly neighbour, or an old friend or work colleague who is in a similar situation to you? Why not suggest meeting up for a coffee or a bite to eat – it could make all the difference to both of you.
Seek help. If being by yourself causes you to feel extremely low or anxious, or if even around other people you still feel lonely, seeking the help of a counsellor or psychotherapist could be extremely useful. Therapy can help you work through your problems, as well as make you more resilient and better able to cope with life’s ups and downs.
The stress of the season
Being alone at Christmas isn’t the only thing which can make the festive season less than merry. The expectations of Christmas on top of the usual pressures of day-to-day life and work can soon start to take their toll.
You might find your stress levels rocketing, which can lead to anxiety, anger, difficulty sleeping and relationship issues.
If this is you, BACP recommends:
Make time to socialise. This means putting in the effort to see people you care about, while limiting your time at events that drain you. Enjoying fun activities with people you’re close to can boost your mood and help you de-stress.
Remember to exercise. It can be easy to forget to exercise during Christmas, and the temperamental weather can feel like a valid excuse to miss out on your recommended 30 minutes a day. However, staying fit is an excellent way to reduce stress levels – even if you can’t exercise outside, there are still plenty of ways you can keep active indoors, such as by joining a gym or doing yoga.
Get creative. Now is the perfect time to let your creative side shine, so spend time on the little things that come with the time of year like decorating the tree, writing Christmas cards and baking lots of delicious treats. Spending time doing something fun will help keep your mind active, your mood high and those stress levels down.
Plan ahead. If you know that you get stressed out every Christmas, you could take preventative action before the holidays begin. Counselling and psychotherapy are successful methods in dealing with stress-related issues. Find a BACP Registered therapist who has an interest in stress reduction and management to make sure that you have some skills to draw on when the pressure mounts.
If Christmas is proving to be anything but happy this year, then therapy offers you a safe, confidential place to talk with someone who is trained to listen attentively and to help you improve things. Your GP can refer you for free therapy, or you can access it privately or sometimes through your employer.
Find out more…
BACP’s website www.itsgoodtotalk.org.uk contains a wealth of information for anyone considering therapy, including information sheets, videos and links to recent research.
Accessing talking therapies: http://henpicked.net/accessing-talking-therapies/