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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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.