• Sarah Connell

Coping with the Challenges of Christmas

Updated: Dec 17, 2018

Christmas is such an exciting time for so many. However it can also be a very emotional time of year. You might have lost someone close, maybe you’re no longer with someone who you loved dearly, perhaps you’re having a hard time in a relationship or with a manager or colleague at work. Maybe you struggle with poor health, or had bad news about your own or a loved ones health, maybe you’re continuing to struggle with a mental health issue, such as anxiety or depression. Somehow it seems harder to deal with these challenges at a time when you are 'supposed' to feel joyful.

Sometimes you might wonder how you will cope with it all? Whatever your struggle, there is always a tinge of sadness underlying everything. Sometimes it can be completely overwhelming. I understand this feeling from a health point of view. My walking is so poor due to MS that even moving around the house without falling is a struggle. Every step I take, I worry I might fall and really hurt myself (this happens fairly frequently). I can’t walk without two crutches or leaning on a pram. I understand that gut wrenching feeling in your stomach when you realise that something has been taken away from you. That feeling that you will never get something back again, or see someone special to you again. There are so many reasons why you might feel this way.

So what can you do to help yourself? When coaching, I have met so many people who feel guilty for feeling bad. They think that they should be grateful for what’s good in their lives. They shouldn’t be so sad or down about things because the lady next door just lost her husband, or their colleague was diagnosed with cancer. Their situation isn’t as bad as that. The truth is that there is always someone in a worse position, but your struggle is really hard for you, so I believe that the first step is for you to give yourself permission to feel sad, it’s ok to feel that way.

Acknowledging your feelings is conducive with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.

ACT posits that suffering is an inevitable and essential part of being human. Accepting any suffering, rather than denying it is key. I have had to adopt this approach, to a point, in dealing with my own health challenges. However I don’t let myself dwell on things for too long. I won’t deny them, but I try to make the best of any difficulties I have by adopting a Cognitive Behavioural approach. I believe that I can choose my response and change the way I think about difficult situations. Yes it is pretty crap that I have a constant fear of falling, and that I look like a robot when I walk because of extreme stiffness in my legs. It’s frustrating that I have to sit down and physically lift my legs to put my jeans on. But I also realise how lucky I am. I’m so blessed to have a husband who offers unrelenting support through all of our challenges. One who is happy to walk with me at my extremely slow pace, someone who is prepared to offer constant support helping to raise our two beautiful children, running after them, carrying them. All among the many things I can no longer do. I also have fantastic parents who offer constant support. I realise how lucky I am despite any challenges. Try to look for the silver lining in your situation. What good things do you have in your life, no matter how small?

Some other things you could do to help yourself cope with challenges at Christmas time are:

  • Ask for support and help from friends or family

  • Spend some time every day doing something that will help you to feel better, even if only briefly

  • Have coffee and chat with a friend

  • Treat yourself to a massage or another nice treatment

  • Go out for a meal

  • Watch a film at the cinema

  • Paint

  • Read a book

  • Listen to or play your favorite music

  • Do a crossword

  • Exercise

  • Look after yourself

  • If dealing with death of loved one, spend some time remembering them, either on your own or with friends

  • Engage in Coaching or Counselling; contact support groups like Cruise or the Samaritans.

The key message is that there is always somewhere to turn and you do not have to suffer on your own.

‘Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful"Joshua J. Marine

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