Kym Marsden’s monthly mental health column aims to help anyone suffering from any mental health concerns. If this article raises any issues for you please contact the resources at the bottom of this article.

 

The impending festive season can be painful for many, as it is a reminder of the disconnectedness they feel from family, friends and community.

Accompanying this is often feelings of depression and anxiety which amplify that overall feeling of isolation and loneliness, making the festive season an incredibly lonely and a dreaded time of year for some.

I’m writing from the heart through my own lived experiences, stemming from losing key family members resulting in avoidant behaviours which I’m consciously working on by adopting simple but effective strategies which I’ll share with you; to enhance your self-awareness, start healing and create an opportunity to choose connectedness with those around you.

I hope I ignite thought across those of us that are lucky enough to be in good standing this time of year. When I’ve been in this position over the years, I feel ashamed to say I’d not really given much thought to the fact that others may be doing it tough which gives credence to that old saying, ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

So, I encourage you to take time out to bestow even one small act of kindness to someone around you that may be doing it rough this time of year. Trust me — it can make all the difference!

It’s normal to experience an amplification or build up of emotions at this time of year and each of you will have a different triggering source for the rollercoaster of emotions you’re experiencing. For some its grief and loss, others its financial stressors and for some it may be a combination of many stressors.

Let’s explore strategies together; I want to share a simple but effective three-pronged approach I use to navigate the loneliness that builds this time of year but also apply it throughout the year during other key celebrations that provoke similar feelings. Please adapt to fit your individual needs.

 

Step One

Identify the emotions, individuals, events or environmental factors that contribute to your emotional state and reactivity. This will require honest self-reflection. Jot them down as a point a reference.

 

Step Two

Create strategies for each reference point you’ve jotted down. Strategies will distract your mind to diminish the negative range of emotions you’re experiencing.

For example, over the years I’ve volunteered my time when undertaking remote work and invited others that are alone over the holidays, dubbing it an ‘Orphans Xmas’.

I’ve packed a lunch and headed off to the beach or a national park for the day to get out of the house and listened to music whilst out walking to shut my mind down from overthinking.

Make sure the strategies you create fit your needs or you will struggle to switch off and follow through.

 

Step Three

Have you ever gotten to a point of time during the year and thought: “I wish I’d planned for that.” Benjamin Franklin famously said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” How so? Simply put, we fail due to living in the moment, opposed to taking the time to plan ahead which gives you the head start you need to ensure you’re either not alone this time next year or you’re occupied to distract from those overwhelming feelings of loneliness.

The good news is, your newly created 2020 plan will now be the basis for your 2021 plan which you can adjust and build on throughout the year.

If you feel that your emotions have intensified and are struggling to contain them, please make time to book an appointment to develop a treatment plan with your GP to access relevant supports for your needs.

 

Lastly, take some time to reflect on the positive aspects and achievements you’ve accomplished throughout 2020 — no matter how big or small, they are there and it will help to distract your mind whilst cultivating hope.

I want to leave you with this fitting quote by Sheryl Sandberg:

“The seeds of resilience are planted in the way we process the negative events in our lives.”

No matter what you do over the festive season, may it be safe and may your days be filled with happy, precious moments.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental ill-health, call or visit the online resources below:

By Kym Marsden

 

Kym Marsden is a Kamilaroi woman and Accredited Mental Health Social Worker with over 19 years’ experience in Mental Health and Community Services. Her qualifications include BA Health Ageing and Community Services, Masters Social Work, Dip Counselling, Dip Community Services (AOD and Mental Health), and Cert IV Training and Assessment.