It’s that time of year once again, the many holidays are upon us and you can feel the excitement in the air. We are bombarded by the music, lights, advertisement, movies etc. about what this time of year “should be” like for us- ie happy, warmth, love for our fellow man etc. But for some of us, we face many challenges this time of year. I know I do.
I guess I’m a bit of a walking contradiction. I do enjoy this time of year, the lights, the music and colors, and that sense of awe, wonder and magic I feel at this time. But, I also struggle with flashbacks, memories that are not warm and cozy. Broken sleep and spikes of anxiety, I find the everyday things seem to take more of my energy, so I really have to choose wisely.
As some of you know, for the last 8 months, I have been working on sitting with - (meaning not distracting myself away from) - whatever emotions come up, and this month has been no different. There have been the challenges of the Ghosts of Christmas Pasts visiting, but there have been wonderful moments of Christmas Present. Like I said, a walking contradiction J
I think really we all struggle in some way this time of the year, but it is rarely talked about. I don’t know if that because we all “believe” that it has to be “just right” because at least we feel some form of control, or we all have these “expectations” of how it should “just be”, but in reality we don’t have a lot of control over much of life on a daily basis, let alone this time of year with added stressors etc.
Those of us with a mental illness or mental health challenges can find this time of year even more challenging. This is where self-care and compassion should be front and center.
This is what my self-care looks like.
Pots of tea, sometimes on my own, often with friends and family. I have booked an appointment with my therapist- I saw her last week, and I am in contact with here via email over the holidays. I have booked extra appointments with my family Dr. When I saw him last Monday he said, “I imagine this is not your favorite time of year”, and in a lot of ways it’s not, so we had a good chat about that. I see him again tomorrow, and will book another appointment when I am there. He can’t “fix” the issues for me, but having a sounding board, sure helps, and often by talking about the issue- instead of keeping the conversation going in my head- gives me clarity and new perspective.
Did I mention pots of tea? Warm blankets fresh out of the dryer, a good book. Drinking tea out of one of my favorite cups and going to lunch with a friend.
I am working on being mindful of when my brain wants to hijack itself into the hyper or anxiety mode, and do what I need to do to ride that out, and not act on it-just so you know, I am not always successful, but I’m working on it. If I need to go into town I try to do so when it is not too busy, like before noon, or on a week day. I have my essentials- like tea J- Last week I stopped at the local tea shop, picked up my various teas, and now do not have to go into town this coming week. I know, I may have a tea problem J
And unlike the past, I allow my emotions to come up- whatever they are, feel them, sit with them, and this year there has been moments of grief, in all its various forms. Sometimes it’s a quiet sadness as I think about friends who are no longer here, or of friends who are struggling. Sometimes it’s a quiet grief that last a moment or two with a quiet tear. And sometimes it’s the body wrenching, snot nosed, red eye grief that takes over my whole body and I am exhausted after, that is also ok. . I have learned, for the most part, not to question why this is happening, but allow myself to feel it, process it and let it pass.
As hard as this may all sound, by doing this, it allows me to receive and enjoy moments of Christmas present. Examples of these are, making Christmas cake with my son- that’s our tradition, listening to Christmas music and dancing around the kitchen as I make more shortbread, and the smiles of the faces of those I give the shortbread to. Stopping to notice the magnificent hawk that is in a tree. Stepping out into the night, when insomnia visits, and gazing up at the stars, or fog, as we have had a lot of that, and being still for those moments. Laughing with friends and family, looking at Christmas lights and putting up the Christmas trees. With each of these moments, I am full of gratitude because I remember times when these were not possible.
I guess what I am trying to say is, take care of yourself during this busy time of year. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself. This will look different for each of us. Give yourself love and compassion as you would give a friend, and remember that you are important, you matter and you are worth it.
And remember, that it may not feel it right now, but it will get better, and you are not alone. Reach out for help if you need it, get those supports in place ahead of time if you can. Let friends know how they can support you through this time of challenge. You do matter, you are worth it, and you are a treasure to this world.
Those are my thoughts for today, may you know you are not alone, and may you feel the universe hold you loving in its arms.