While walking the dog, I saw a single white flower, almost like a large daisy, beneath a tree where everything else around it was defeated by ground frost. This flower stood defiant against the elements for many more weeks before finally going crispy and brown. Even then, it stood proud, refusing to fall.
It’s all too easy to end up wilted and lifeless, lacking motivation and longing to hibernate like a bear, especially during these cold, dark, busy winter months.
We get sick, depressed, and lethargic. And if you have a chronic illness, symptoms may become even worse during the colder season.
Add the stress of the holidays, increasingly bleak news headlines, tough finances, family arguments, and you have the perfect recipe for depression, anxiety, overwhelm, and hiding under the duvet for months on end.
There may be times when you feel completely drained and hopeless, but rest assured, there are things you can do to bring that spark back into your soul.
You see, in today’s modern world of consumerism, always-online technology, scary news, uncertainty, and filling tick boxes, we forget to take care of number one. In fact, society tells us it’s selfish to do so; and that couldn’t be any more damaging or further from the truth.
But how do you know when you’re at your limit?
The trick is to understand the signs of when you’re nearing overload. These can include but are not limited to:
Easily losing your temper, even with small things
Feeling like hiding for long periods of time
Thoughts of running away
Feeling stressed without knowing why
Having flare ups of existing illnesses
Unable to cope at work
Fatigue and lethargy
Withdrawing from social situations
Persistent negative thoughts
Please bear in mind that the things I’ve mentioned can also be symptoms of mental illness such as depression, anxiety disorder, or other conditions. If you’ve suffered with symptoms for more than a few months, be sure to talk to a doctor, trusted friend, colleague, or a family member.
Don’t suffer in silence.
Society tells us that it’s selfish to take care of ourselves before we take care of others, but the opposite is true.
Think of yourself as being like a storage box- one with rammed with so much clutter that you can’t possibly fit anymore in.
If you try, the stuff just spills out and the box might even break. Stuff deep inside of it gets damaged because it’s buried under the weight of so much other stuff.
And here’s the thing: it’s impossible to be there for others when your internal storage box is overflowing with to do lists, negative emotions, and other people’s baggage.
Christmas is a particularly stressful time of year but there’s so much you can do to dial it down whilst raising your overall happiness levels.
It’s vital to rewrite the message that society gives out and take care of yourself.
Set healthy boundaries with others. What I mean by that, is if someone is piling their problems onto you, but you feel like you’re creaking under the weight of your own problems, you don’t have to keep cramming your internal storage box beyond capacity.
What you can do, is to tell them that you’ll happily listen to them, but you need a day or so to take some downtime. That way you’re not letting them down, all you’re doing is taking care of yourself so that you’re able to help them.
Realise you don’t have to participate in every event and splurge hundreds of pounds on gifts. You could just as easily donate to a charity and avoid the stress of cards and gifts, all while feeling great because you helped someone in need.
This will also lessen the financial burden that comes with Christmas.
We buy so much stuff to show our love, stuff which will be unloved and unused because it’s the person that’s loved, not the thing. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of thousands of people on the streets who can’t afford a hot meal.
I’m not trying to make you feel guilty here, but for me, the reality that’s on the streets of my own town has helped me to put things into perspective.
Do the things you love. Whether that’s snuggling up to watch movies, chilling out to music, writing, playing video games, sewing, drawing or volunteering for charity. Make time for you.
Learn to relax. There’s no need to cram your schedule so full of shopping and events that you lose sight of what’s really important.
Declutter your home to make way for the positive energy of the New Year. Make way for the things that are important to you because you’ll have a far clearer view of what you truly want when it’s not buried by a mountain of stuff you don’t need.
Practise gratitude and look for it in everything that’s around you.
Take Vitamins. A lack of Vitamin D, especially when days are short and dark can contribute to feelings of depression and other health issues. Remember to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.
If you’re still struggling and dealing with issues such as bereavement or social anxiety there are some more useful tips on this website.
However, if you really want to help out someone else who’s suffering, here are some tips you can use to support them, many of which I’ve learned from completing my counselling course and further studying.
Listen. Truly listen. And empathise. To do this, you must be completely non-judgemental and turn off your inner chatter. Focus only on them and try to feel things from their view of reality. All too often we think we are listening, but can’t wait to bombard them with advice that might not even be suitable.
Depending on the age of the person you’re supporting, you should be very careful if giving advice because it can make them feel powerless, and also cause them to become dependent on you to solve their problems.
Everyone has endless potential to grow and to take charge of their lives, if given the right kind of support, in supportive, kind and caring conditions.
Signpost them to a helpful organisation, charity or service. This would be useful if what they are going through is far more than what you could realistically help with. E.g sexual abuse disclosures or severe mental health issues you are not trained to support.
Don’t assume anything Making assumptions can be more harmful than you think. For example, it would be easy to assume that if you have been through something similar, they must feel the same way about their situation as you did.
That’s not always the case because people are so unique and the meanings they drew from that event in their lives may well be different from your own. Making assumptions is the easiest way to show someone that you don’t understand their viewpoint, and that you’re not truly listening.
Visit them/meet up for fun or just a nice, cosy chat. Christmas can be the loneliest time of year for people or bring forth sad memories and feelings.
You can find some more great tips here.
Remember, to take care of somebody else you must first remember to declutter and maintain your own internal storage box.
Don’t feel ashamed to reach out to someone.
With that, I wish you all the best health, a Merry Christmas (if you celebrate it) and a fantastic New Year.