Good Mental Health at Christmas

mental-health-and-christmas

The messages we see and hear leading up to Christmas from media and marketing campaigns can feel as if expectations are being imposed on us to enjoy ourselves and be happy in the holiday season.

But…

What if you are just about managing to get through each day at the moment….what if you are facing the Christmas period alone, grieving for someone who has died, or you are in the midst of family or relationship conflict?  Facing Christmas can then feel a very daunting prospect.

Family Difficulties:

Conflicts which exist all year around can often come to the surface at this time of year.  The expectation to gather the whole family together can result in anxiety, stress and pressure.  Accepting this may happen and being able to set grievances aside until a more appropriate time for discussion, may be helpful.

Bereavement:

Christmas can be a time of sadness, whether someone close to you has recently died, or you were bereaved a long time ago.  It is important to acknowledge to yourself that it is normal to feel sadness and grief.  You do not need to force yourself to be happy, just because it is the holiday season. Spending some time thinking in advance about arrangements over Christmas and what would be most helpful for you can be useful.

Loneliness:

There are many people for whom loneliness is a significant issue throughout the year, and particularly in the holiday season.  If you feel lonely or isolated, have a look at any local community or social events which may be taking place.  The organisation Mind has helpful information and practical suggestions to cope with loneliness.  See the link below.

Many elderly people do not look forward to Christmas because they will be on their own. This is the time of year to check on older neighbours, relatives and friends.  Perhaps tell them about ‘The Silver Line’ which is a free confidential helpline providing information, friendship and advice to older people.  It is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Telephone number 0800 4 70 80 90

Self-Care:

Physical tiredness and disruption of your normal routine can, in itself, be a cause for stress over the Christmas period.  With so many expectations and obligations, it is easy to forget to look after yourself.  Just being able to keep to regular patterns of sleeping and eating can be helpful.

Useful Links:

http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/loneliness/

https://www.thesilverline.org.uk/

http://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/contact-us

Please contact sharonc@pacecounselling.co.uk  if you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this post, and would like an appointment to see a counsellor.

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Depression self-help

Depression – The Prison in Our Minds

“…..in depression we can neither give nor receive comfort, for we are alone in a prison, and that prison is filled with fear, anger, guilt and despair…..” (Dorothy Rowe 1983)

Depression can be the greatest isolation that we can experience, and it can be very difficult to take the steps we need to take to feel better when feelings of hopelessness and lack of energy overwhelm us.  However, although overcoming depression is not easy, it is possible and it is important to recognise that you can have some level of control over your thoughts and your feelings.  The following self-help tips can help, either alongside any professional help you may be receiving or on their own.

  1. One day at a time

Small goals and small steps are the way forward.  Write down a list of 6 things that you can manage to do that can help you move to a different emotional space.  e.g. taking a bath, making yourself a cup of tea, walking outside and looking at the sky, taking a short walk down the road, phoning a friend.  Pick one of these things each day and reward yourself each time you accomplish one.

2.       Reach Out

The heavy fog of depression can be very difficult to lift on your own, and being isolated can make it worse.  Reaching out to others for support is a strength, and this is the time to do it.  Often, it may feel more comfortable to retreat into yourself, but being around other people can help lift your depression and improve your support network.

3.       Challenge your negative thoughts

It can feel a difficult task to “think positive” when you are depressed, but there are things you can do to challenge the negative thoughts you may be having, simply by offering yourself more balanced and realistic thoughts.  E.g. Ask yourself, are you being harsh on yourself with what you are thinking? Would you say what you are thinking about to someone else in the same position?  Is there a less harsh thought that you can offer yourself?

4.       Make a Self-Care Kit

A self-care Kit can support you in different ways when you feel depressed.  Collect together one item for each of the 5 senses that can help bring good feelings to the surface for you.  E.g. smell (coffee, incense, perfume);  taste (chocolate, sweets);  touch (crystal, stone, jewellery, teddy);  sight (photo, poem);  sound (CD, Ipod).  Place these items in a box, and dig into it to help you move to a different emotional space.  By choosing 2 or 3 items from the box, you can make it more portable and carry them around with you.

5.        Exercise and Diet

Although this is the last thing you may feel like doing, exercise can be a powerful tool to helping depression.  A 10 minute burst of exercise each day can be a good start e.g. walking up the stairs, walking down the road, and you can then progress to longer periods of exercise, e.g. swimming, yoga.

Aim for mood boosting foods including low-fat protein, complex carbohydrates and fresh fruit and vegetables.  Reduce your intake of foods that can adversely affect your mood, such as caffeine, alcohol, saturated fats, and foods with high levels of chemical preservatives.

  1. Three things

Each evening, look back over your day and choose 3 things that have happened that may have made you smile or may have just helped you feel a little better, and write them down, however small.  This may seem like a struggle, but it is possible to start tuning in to notice these things, e.g. something nice or amusing somebody said or did, hearing a nice song on the radio; something nice that just caught your eye.

Whilst these tips can all be part of your treatment plan for recovery from depression, there may be other issues such as anxiety, trauma, loss, and anger underneath it all.  If you are finding that you are continuing to struggle, professional counselling can help by working with you to deal with the issues underlying the thoughts and feelings associated with your depression so that you can find a way out of the ‘prison’.

Please contact sharonc@pacecounselling.co.uk for an initial consultation or telephone 07936 556314.

 

Empty Nest Syndrome

Empty Nest Syndrome is the name given to the feeling of sadness that can affect parents when their children have left home.  It is certainly natural to feel a bit low when your children first leave home. Often there is a big build up to them leaving with so much to be done. Once they have gone, it can suddenly hit you and the house can feel very empty and quiet. One Mum in her late fifties describes how she felt when her last son left home.

“The thing I found most strange was the tidiness of the house. Nothing moved during the day, and although this was nice it was also quite a lonely feeling. I do remember moving things around just to make the space feel lived in.”

If you are feeling a bit sad when your children have left, it’s really good to talk to other people about how you feel. You will soon come to realise that you are not alone with your feelings and it is reassuring to know that other parents are also feeling a bit miserable and slightly redundant. For women this time can often coincide with the menopause when emotions are already running amok and this combined with other commitments such as work, home and perhaps dealing with elderly parents can leave women feeling very down. It can be a time of conflicting emotions and sometimes a fear that life is never going to be the same.

In this day and age it is easier to keep in touch with children once they have left and phoning, texting and emails can help regular contact which may feel more reassuring. However it is important to allow space between yourself and your child once they have left home, and not be concerned if they don’t reply straight away. Just remember, it’s quite natural to worry about them. You may miss their companionship and being a part of their daily lives but you can allow yourself to feel proud that your children have the confidence to leave home and “are on their way” wherever that may lead to in the future.

When your children have gone it’s important to think positively of this new phase in your life. You can spend more time doing things you enjoy and maybe take up a new interest and catch up with friends who you haven’t seen for a long time. Things won’t be quite the same but just because things are different it doesn’t have to mean not as good.  The Mum quoted earlier in this piece says that once she had adjusted to her children no longer being at home she felt differently.

“There are certainly now upsides and we do now enjoy having the house to ourselves but I definitely need to have plans in the diary to see the boys at regular intervals.”

Everyone will be different in how they cope with or react to their “Empty Nest.” You do need to give yourself time to adapt but if you feel overwhelmed by your emotions and you are feeling down and tearful, then it maybe that you do need a little support to guide you through this transitional time. If this is the case then a visit to your GP may help to talk things through and your GP may suggest some counselling.

 http://www.familylives.org.uk/

 Many thanks to Louise Convisser, freelance writer, for this article.

If you know anyone who is struggling emotionally with issues such as these or with other difficulties, counselling can provide a confidential space to talk things through. Please e-mail sharonc@pacecounselling.co.uk or telephone Sharon Convisser on 07936 556314 for an appointment or initial discussion.