Christmas has always been a difficult time of year for me and it can bring up a lot of difficult feelings and memories. In the past I have usually dealt with this by using every self destructive coping strategy I could think of, and it didn’t end well. I think I’ve finally realised this doesn’t help and I am determined that this year will be different for me. So I have come up with a Christmas self care plan!
Taking things at my own pace
It is difficult not to compare yourself to other people anyway, but I think at this time of year it is even harder. Social media is filled with photos and updates of people out enjoying themselves with friends and family, and giving off the impression that they are all doing such exciting things. It is difficult to remember that this isn’t always reality and that people mostly only share the good bits. In order for me to feel okay I need to remember this, and even avoid social media or mute words and hashtags if I need to. My health has to come first and isn’t worth risking to push myself to do things just because I feel like I should be living at the same pace as other people. I try to only do what I have the energy to do these days and being able to accept that without beating myself up is much healthier for me.
Keep planning my weeks
It would be great if I could just think ‘I’m on holiday now and I don’t need to stay organised or plan anything’, but having a lack of structure to my days or weeks is always a bad idea for me. Even if a lot of that planning is just making sure I have rest days, days for self care and time for myself. To stay well I have to make sure I keep on top of things like making sure I have food in the flat, keeping my flat tidy and getting a good sleep. Bullet journalling really helps me stay organised with all of this!
Letting myself feel my emotions
With the help of therapy, I have been practising this over the past year and it has been very challenging but has helped me move forward with my life and learn better coping skills. When I need to cry now I try to just let myself cry, instead of beating myself up about it instead. I used to panic thinking I’ll never be able to stop but letting myself ride it out and remembering that it will pass works for me when I can manage this. Christmas brings up feelings of loss, loneliness and anger for me, and I am trying to accept this and let myself feel those emotions.
Not using alcohol to deal with how I feel
The way I have used alcohol to deal with everything in my life has always been one of my biggest problems. From an early age I realised getting drunk helps you to avoid dealing with any difficult emotions or memories. I have worked so hard over the last couple of years to overcome this. To begin with I cut alcohol out completely, but recently have allowed myself to have a glass of wine at the weekend or when out for a meal, and it has worked out well. But I still have the urge to use alcohol as a means of running away from dealing with anything inside my head and Christmas definitely makes this so much worse. So staying conscious of this and using healthier coping strategies is my plan.
Finding a balance between staying connected to people and having time to myself
To stay well I have to spend a lot of time by myself to wind down and build up my energy. But too much time alone and I can withdraw into myself and feel disconnected and lonely. I have always found trying to find the balance of this very difficult! With having so much time off from university over Christmas it will be even harder to find this balance. So far I have been off nearly a week and have decided to use this time for myself to rest and wind down, but over the next few weeks I plan to spend more time with people and stay feeling connected without getting overwhelmed. Learning to say no to things I don’t want to or have the energy to do has helped me so far in managing this, and recognising the signs of when I start to feel disconnected and need to reach out to people. Even at Christmas time when it would seem you can’t say no to socialising, I do anyway. My health has to come first.
Spending time doing things I enjoy
Until this year I have never really just did things purely because I enjoy them. I didn’t really have any hobbies or interests, only things I was trying to achieve. Even when I read books it was mostly non fiction which I would read to try and find out things. Everything was about trying to get something out of things or feel a sense of moving forwards, rather than just being able to enjoy something in the moment. I have always read some fiction on and off but recently I have discovered how much I love reading fiction, and I can’t stop. It has become one of my main coping strategies. So over Christmas instead of thinking about the things I should be doing at this time of year, I am going to spend time doing things I enjoy doing. Reading, writing, learning new things, going to coffee shops, listening to audiobooks, walking the dogs and anything else that I enjoy.
This time of year can make us feel like we should have these happy perfect lives with perfect families and have a christmas that looks like what it does in adverts and photos. But real life isn’t like that. Christmas can be the loneliest and most difficult time of year for so many of us. Putting yourself first is more important than meeting anyone else’s expectations of you at Christmas and at all times throughout the year.