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Blog: The Season to be Jolly

Sad Christmas Puppy

By Tom Dyer
ACTivate Your Life - Affected By Cancer Lead

Christmas... a time of laughter and love, fun and festivities, parties and presents. It can mean all this and more. But it can also mean other things.

The silly season can be very tricky for some. When all around seem like they’re having a great time, some of us can be feeling stressed, down or struggling to cope with the season of goodwill.

Some will be struggling with a sense of loneliness or exclusion. Christmas is a time when we’re all meant to be happy, after all “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” right?  But even in a room full of people we can feel lonely or upset. Many will be reflecting on those they’ve lost at this time. Important calendar dates can stir memories and reflection.

Some will be feeling the pressure to join in. If you suffer from social anxiety, this time of year can be really hard. We’re all expected to join the party and turn up to functions with a Santa hat on and a big smile. But for some that can cause panic and discomfort.

For others the pure overwhelming emotion of it all or having time to sit around and ruminate can trigger a bout of depression. Which sounds odd as it’s all about light and joy. But the thoughts and memories that Christmas brings up can be a powerful trigger to set off a spiral of depression.

And most of us feel at least a little stressed. Have I bought the right presents? Will I be able to get everything done in time? How will I cope with all the family coming round? How will I pay for it all? It can be a stressful and incredibly demanding time.

But... we can help ourselves and others to get through this time of year. Here are a few tips that may just help if you are struggling a little.

Stress

  • Take a step back and breathe. Christmas is a time for you too.
  • It doesn’t have to be perfect. Does ‘perfect’ even exist?
  • Those you love would rather you were happy and relaxed than having you worrying.
  • Ask for help. It’s a time where everyone can pitch in.
  • Make a list. Tick off jobs as you do them and scribble out the ones that really don’t need doing… (cleaning the crockery cupboard can wait until Jan!)

Anxiety

  • Take time out. It’s ok to retreat.
  • It’s also ok to say no to attending parties or functions.
  • Explain to the people you trust and love how you feel. They will be able to be a buffer.
  • Count. If you’re really panicking, counting, especially backward, can engage the brain and give it a chance to ‘stand down’.

Depression

  • Know your triggers! Understanding what starts your spiral can be a powerful tool to taking back a little control.
  • Talk to someone. You won’t be ruining their good vibes... those who care will want to listen.
  • Often those we love know something is amiss and are relieved when we can open up and tell them what’s going on.
  • Take the time you need for yourself and try to do something you enjoy... even if it has nothing to do with Christmas.
  • Getting outside for a bit is good. If you can, take a walk and get some air. Walking really is a good mood booster.

So give yourself a gift this year. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others who may be going through a tough time.

Take steps to make Christmas a time to feel content, happy, peaceful and safe. Whether that’s throwing huge parties and dancing the night away dressed as an elf, or spending some time on the sofa eating potato waffle sarnies.

Top Tips:

Take some time

Give yourself five minutes to completely stop what you’re doing, focus on your breathing and take in all of the senses. This can make you more productive and more creative. It can help you to rationalise your thoughts and give you strength and confidence in your decision making.

Be mindful

Being mindful could help you experience this period with more vibrancy. Whether you’re seeing loved ones, or going on a walk by yourself over the coming weeks, use the opportunity to stop, take notice what’s going on around you (the sounds, the smells) and appreciate the surroundings you find yourself in.

More help

If you’ve been affected by cancer and find yourself struggling with your thoughts, our ACTivate Your Life – Affected By Cancer courses may help. Find out more and see our upcoming courses.

Here are some great websites with more information on how to get through the festive season.

blurtitout.org/tag/Christmas

mind.org.uk/get-involved/about-minds-membership/membership-pages/christmas-and-mental-health

tenovuscancercare.org.uk/how-we-can-help-you/activate-your-life-affected-by-cancer