Christmas time can be an amazing time for some.
It's the time when you get to spent time with their family, eat food, talk about the past, talk about the future and exchange gifts.
That sentence can be one that fills you with happiness. It can also be one that fills you with utter dread. The amount of possible triggering and/or uncomfortable situations in that sentence are endless. Eating disorders, sexuality, sexual assault survival, gender identity, financial hardship, the list could go on.
For many people, Christmas (or any other religious holiday or forced family meals) can be a very sad and stressful time. Surprisingly for some, suicide rates dip during December but domestic abuse spikes dramatically.
Here’s some ways to look after yourself and some numbers to hold nearby as this festive period approaches.
Be as honest as you feel you can – If you can speak to family about your concerns then please do. Let them know what you need from them and how they can be of help to you. If the issue is one family member, try speaking to a relative that you feel close and safe with and see if they can be your buffer. If you don’t feel like you can speak to anyone that you will be sharing space with at this time, keep a notebook with you. Sometimes jotting down negative feelings or worries you have can be enough to keep them at bay.
Know your support network – Ideally have a few people you can speak to if you feel things spiral. These can be friends, counsellors or mental health phone lines. Remember that at Christmas phone lines may be less staffed than usual and friends may be unavailable. Arrange with friends or your healthcare professional a time that would be good to call if its needed.
Get those Endorphins going – pack a pair of trainers in with your toothbrush for your holiday stay. Exercise can really help depression and feelings of control loss because when you exercise your body produces Endorphins that give you a positive feeling. It can also help you with an excuse for leaving and getting a bit of head space at any time that you feel things getting too much to handle. I once had an ex that said when they ran they imagined they were running away from their problems.
These are a few of my favourite things – Do you have a jumper that makes you feel happy? Do you have a photo that fills you with joy? Is there a smell (like an essential oil) that relaxes you? Make yourself a first aid kit that you can take with you to keep you calm and focussed. If you don’t know what keeps you calm, lavender is pretty much the best thing ever.
You can’t drink your problems away – This is something I learned the hard way. If you are feeling vulnerable alcohol will not help you. It will no doubt make things worse and much more emotional. Plus, alcohol can make your depression much much worse and you will be left feeling hungover and very low and dark the next day.
Preparation is key – If you know certain questions will come up decide before hand if you want to answer them. If you are going to answer them, think of your answer and practice it before you get there. You only need to give information that you are comfortable talking about and if you’d prefer you can think of deflecting answers to move the conversation onto a different topic.
You don’t owe anyone anything – repeat that into the mirror a trillion times cos its true! If something makes you feel uncomfortable or unhappy or invalidated or unappreciated and if you feel safe to do so then walk away. Even if its just for a moment for a breather until you are calm enough to return. You are in control of the situation.
Helpful numbers (UK)
Samaritans – 116 123 (free from any phone)
National Domestic Violence helpline 0808 - 2000 247
Victim support - 0808 168 9111
Eating disorder support - 01494 793223
Lgbt helpline – 0300 123 2523
National Debtline - 0808 808 4000
Rape crisis - 0808 802 9999