It has been another tough year and all the talk about Christmas can be hard. There are many shoulds, oughts and musts about this time of year – obligations, rules and requirements, but those demands do not always line up with how we feel and it can feel tough.
There are a few things we can do though, to help when things get tough.
First of all – Be Kind.
Be kind to yourself. If you’re feeling tired, or sad, or disappointed or any other feeling then it’s worthwhile acknowledging that feeling, letting yourself know that its human to have feelings and we all have a huge range of them. Mostly they fall into sad, angry, scared and happy. That’s only one quarter happy. It’s pretty usual to feel things other than happy! Getting curious about the message of the feeling and holding off on any judgement can help us figure out what the feeling is about and what we need in order to feel okay.
Second – Be Boundaried.
Spending a lot of time, and a lot of it indoors, with people that we might love, but don’t always like can be difficult and it can be harder the less positive that relationship is. But we can set our own intentions and state them to others too. Talk to any Counsellor and we will soon talk about boundaries. This isn’t about insisting that we get things done our way, but it’s about stating clearly what we want to have happen – and what we’ll do if that line gets overstepped.
Here’s a few examples.
Not a boundary, “You need to be more considerate and thoughtful.”
A better boundary, “I would like you to do these specific things and if you don’t, that’s okay but the consequence will be…”
Not a boundary, “You need to show up on time”
A better boundary, “If you are late, we will not wait for you”
The important thing to remember is that these are not ultimatums or demands. It’s being clear about what you need and what the course of action you will take if you are let down. It’s about YOU not about THEM.
Sometimes we can set a boundary for ourselves, “I feel terrible when everyone gets heated. If everyone starts shouting, I will take myself to another place where I know it is quiet and I am safe”
Finally, P.A.C.E yourself… AND your family
To Pace oneself is to do something at a speed that is steady and that allows one to continue without becoming too tired
P stands for playfulness. This isn’t the same as playing but represents enjoying time with others or by yourself in an unconditional way. It’s about showing real interest in someone and finding something you really enjoy about them, even if it’s just for a minute or two. It might be holding hands as you walk around the shops, telling cringey jokes, or taking yourself off for 5 minutes and doing something completely different with no guilt and no blame.
A is for acceptance. Other people have different perspectives and experiences from us and sometimes we just need to accept this is how they see the world. We can’t really change that, there’s nothing that we can say or do that is going to make it better and we don’t really have helpful advice to give. However just being alongside someone when they’re experiencing uncomfortable sensations or large emotions can have a huge positive impact. By being there and understanding we can provide comfort.
C is for curiosity. This isn’t asking why, despite how much we want to know. It’s about wondering what is going on inside for someone else. Curious wondering can mean taking a risk about being wrong. It can sound like, “Would it be okay if I share something with you? I wonder if… I might be wrong, so tell me if I am, but I thought that maybe…”
This lets other people know that your mind in on their mind and that you are genuinely interested without judgement. And of course we can take the same approach with ourselves and wonder what’s going on for us if we felt a particular way or reacted in a way that seems unhelpful on reflection.
E is for empathy, and that can take a lot of energy at the best of times. Christmas can bring up painful memories of the past, or people that are no longer with us, worries about whether we’re living up to others expectations or what the future might hold – all of which are challenging and can make us feel depleted or as though we’re the problem. Others have these feelings too and accepting that someone is disappointed that they didn’t get what they were expecting or that life isn’t quite working out the way they expected can be a really powerful experience. Experts say that if we can move away from reassurance or denial of feelings (that’s saying that everything is fine and there’s no need to be sad/angry/scared, “cheer up” or statements along the lines of “it could be worse”) and instead naming what’s happening (I see you are angry right now, because your toy broke) helps others feel understood and actually reduces distress. And we can apply these strategies to ourselves too.
We hope that everyone reading this has a restorative and replenishing break, but if it is tough or you are having a hard time please remember to be kind to yourself.
MYPAS is operating throughout the next few weeks as normal but with a reduced staff team. Our offices are closed on the 26th and 27th of December and the 2nd and 3rd of January.
Our Digital Drop in Service is available each week day between 3:30-5:30pm. To chat live to one of our staff, simply go to our website during this time and a chat box will pop up www.mypas.co.uk
If you are in crisis and feel you cannot keep yourself safe please call reach out to a crisis or emergency service:
The Samaritans – 24 hour help line for crisis can be contacted by phoning 116 123 it is free, confidential and accessible.
You can call ChildLine on 0800 1111. This number is free to call and are open 24 hours a day.
Breathing Space Scotland offers a free confidential helpline to talk about how you are feeling: 0800 838587, this is available Monday to Friday 6pm-2am and 24 hours at the weekend and is for anyone 16 and over who is feeling low, anxious or isolated.
If you need to see someone, think about contacting local services including your GP practice or on call GP’s, the NHS 111 helpline for advice, guidance and directions. If you are in need of urgent help, you can attend your local A&E department or if you have a mental health team supporting you a Christmas action plan and support will be available.
Credit to Dan Hughes: PACE, and Beacon House Therapeutic Services & Trauma Team for inspiration.