Taking Care During The Christmas Season

December 21, 2023

The festive period, traditionally a time associated with warmth, joy, and familial togetherness, are paradoxically not universally marked by merriment. For a significant number of people, this time of year embodies a complex tapestry of emotions, where the societal norm of being “jolly and bright” can collide with personal struggles, accentuating the delicate nature of mental well-being during this celebrated time.

The societal portrayal of the festive period often idealises a tableau of happiness, familial bonds and seasonal cheer. The pervasive cultural narrative of the holiday season can inadvertently marginalise those who grapple with a spectrum of challenges, rendering their experiences incongruent with the prevailing festive spirit. For some, this time of year serves as an unwelcome reminder of personal loss, estrangement, financial strain, or mental health struggles. It is crucial that we hold these individuals in mind and support them.

One poignant aspect contributing to the intricacy of the season is the societal emphasis on familial unity and communal celebrations which can be a struggle for many for a myriad of reasons. For individuals navigating familial discord, bereavement, or estrangement, the pervasive imagery of harmonious family gatherings can underscore a sense of isolation, intensifying feelings of loneliness and detachment during a period ostensibly dedicated to togetherness. TICS associate, Jessica Parker adds, “During this bustling season, it becomes effortless to neglect the activities we cherish in order to accommodate everything else. Sustaining hobbies or dedicating just 20 minutes to immerse yourself in what brings you joy can be instrumental in managing the unpredictability.”

Financial considerations also play a pivotal role in influencing the mental well-being of individuals given the cost which derives from the commercialisation of the season fosters an environment wherein the act of gift-giving, decking the halls, and partaking in festive revelry becomes inextricably linked with economic expenditure. For those grappling with financial constraints, this association can elicit stress and exacerbate pre-existing challenges, creating an additional layer of complexity to the season.

Grieving individuals face the arduous task of navigating the festive season amidst the poignant absence of loved ones. The emphasis on shared joy during Christmas becomes a poignant reminder of the void left by those who are no longer present. The struggle to reconcile personal grief with societal expectations amplifies the emotional toll experienced during this time.

Navigating the Difficulties:

* Amidst the complexities, preserving mental well-being becomes an imperative.
* Acknowledging and validating one's emotions, rather than succumbing to societal expectations, constitutes a foundational step.
* Granting oneself the grace to experience a range of emotions, whether joy, sorrow, or ambivalence, is a pivotal aspect of fostering resilience during this period.

TICS associate, Jessica Parker suggests, “the winter break can be an opportunity to get some much needed rest and prioritise our mental wellbeing. Sleep has so many restorative benefits which can support our wellbeing in the upcoming new year.”

The importance of setting realistic expectations cannot be overstated. Embracing the idea that our choices this season need not conform to external ideals liberates individuals from undue pressure. Establishing boundaries, both financial and emotional, serves as a protective measure against the stressors that may arise. You are not obliged to accept every invitation that comes your way. While it is always appreciated to be invited and engaged, it's important to consider your comfort and well-being. If there's an event that you don't wish to attend or one that triggers difficult thoughts of feelings, take a moment to carefully consider your decision before accepting. Generally, if the person extending the invitation is aware that the event could be distressing for you, they would likely understand if you chose
not to attend (revisiting the initial point).

Creating an individualised approach to Christmas rituals, detached from societal expectations, allows for a more authentic engagement with the season. By incorporating activities that align with personal values and comfort, individuals can forge a sense of agency amidst the aforementioned cultural tableau.

Maintaining connections, whether in-person or virtually, offers a lifeline for individuals experiencing feelings of isolation. Cultivating a support network, comprised of friends, family, or mental health professionals, provides avenues for open dialogue and shared understanding.

TICS director Lisa Cherry and the TICS associates also want to take a moment to express our heartfelt gratitude for your unwavering support throughout the year. Your loyalty and has fuelled our journey; inspiring us to reach new heights. To all those who find this season difficult, we hear you and want you to know that you are not alone.

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