As one of our counsellors wrote in our most recent blog, Christmas and New Year can be a stressful time for many people and for survivors of sexual abuse and assault, this time of year can feel a particular challenge. All of us have our unique set of strategies– usually on a spectrum between healthy and less healthy – which help us to cope with difficult times. Christmas is a time when it might be helpful consciously to consider what existing coping strategies are going to serve us well, what we might adopt to get us through and what feels possible to us. Here are some thoughts of what might help:
1) Being realistic
The myth of the perfect Christmas always disappoints and others aren’t having it perfect either. Setting realistic expectations of how things might be protects us from disappointment, feeling let down or a sense of failure
This is very different from being self-indulgent or letting ourselves off the hook. Practise being your own best friend, challenge yourself when you find yourself locked in self-judgement or harsh self-talk
It can be tempting to ‘check out’ of life, either through using substances, dissociation or simply absenting ourselves emotionally as well as practically. Being present can feel a real challenge but can really help us to stay connected with the good things in life. Thich Nhat Hanh talks of traffic light and washing up meditation; the art of taking moments through the day really to connect
This can be a particular challenge at Christmas! The impetus to over- indulge is strong and is socially validated. But we all know that the short term enjoyment soon turns into a medium to longer term fall out. Choosing a few things which you particularly enjoy and really savouring them in moderation can feel so much more satisfying. Balancing eating with exercise, relaxation with activity helps us to maintain a sense of balance which ultimately leaves us feeling so much better
There is so much emphasis on connection at Christmas – families, romance, partying and this can re-emphasise a sense of disconnection, loneliness and isolation. But we are relational beings and need to connect. Think who you can reach out to this Christmas and notice the small connections in your life which can lift our spirits – the kind person in the shop, a neighbour saying hi, someone laughing at the bus stop
As I write this, I am only too aware how easy this is to say and what a challenge it can be to do in the mess and confusion of life being lived. If you are finding this time of year really painful and difficult, please remember, you are not alone. Sometimes it can feel too hard. If you’re struggling, reach out for help. We are here for you.
If you want to access support over the Christmas period from SurvivorsUK please get in touch through our online helpline, but please make sure to check our limited opening times.
If you’re having a difficult time, perhaps you’re dealing with flashbacks, depression or any of the other common feelings and effects survivors experience, but you don’t feel like talking about it (or during our online helpline closing days) then hopefully one of these links will be able to offer you some help.
Katherine, Counsellor and Groupwork Coordinator, SurvivorsUK