Self-care tips for Christmas-time

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A father and child pick out a Christmas tree together
Published on: Wednesday 08 Dec 2021 at 13:17

When you’ve lost someone close, Christmas can be hard. Really hard.

Elaine McManigan
Elaine McManigan

We are calling on local people to look after themselves and each other in the run up to Christmas.

According to a YouGov survey, over two in five Brits have felt stressed during the festive season, while about one in four has struggled with anxiety or depression. Of those who had been widowed, around a third of them feel that Christmas has a negative impact on their mental health.

St Clare Hospice’s Family Support Counsellor, Elaine McManigan, is issuing some helpful guidance around coping during the Christmas period for people who are bereaved, along with contact numbers for those in need of support.

1. Planning

“For some people it is the anticipation of Christmas coming that can be more distressing than Christmas itself; it can feel like Christmas is ‘looming’,” says Elaine. “Planning in advance can take off some of that anticipatory distress.”

2. Finding different ways to celebrate Christmas

Elaine explains that it’s sometimes helpful to find different ways to mark Christmas: “You might want to stick to some traditions but not all the usual routines or repeat a tradition your loved one may have started or liked. Please remember, that it’s up to you – whatever makes you feel better is the right thing to do.  And if you don’t feel the need to celebrate Christmas – then don’t.

3. Maintaining your routine

“What is important is that you try to maintain your normal routine. Christmas Day can get quite chaotic to it’s important to try to keep your normal patterns of sleeping and eating – it’s a way of self-care and putting yourself first. It’s really important to look after yourself; it can be tempting to drink and eat more than normal but numbing the pain in that way is only temporary and it could make you feel a lot worse.

4. Switch off the TV

“Sometimes the TV can make you feel worse too – turn it off it is gets too sentimental.”

5. Find ways to remember a loved one

Elaine advises that it is also important to find ways to remember a loved one who is missed. ”That might be speaking to them out loud, or maybe silently, writing them a letter or maybe visiting a special place, the crematorium or resting place with friends, family or on your own. Looking at photos too may help you remember good times.

6. Talk to someone

The other important thing, Elaine iterates, is to talk to someone. “It’s important to remember that grief is unique to each person – even if you are in a family, different people grieve in different ways and this can lead to misunderstandings. Respect that everyone is different. Be sensitive to each other’s needs, talk openly and support each other.”

The Hospice has a range of ways to support someone through bereavement – and this support will continue throughout the Christmas period.

  • GriefLine is open from 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday (not Christmas Day and Boxing Day but it is open on 27th and 28th December. It is closed on New Year’s Day but open again on Monday 3rd January). The number to call is 01279 945089. It is free to call, though charges may apply in line with your standard network rate.
  • The St Clare Bereavement Café is open on Christmas and New Year’s Eve. You can meet face to face with other people in similar positions to yourself for a cuppa and a chat. Please ring the helpline to let them know you are coming so we can assess numbers but it is a drop in, open 2pm to 3.30pm on each of those days.

Other useful numbers and websites

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