This is a guest from written by Emma Marks, Community Development Worker for Birmingham Mind. Emma will be facilitating a series of free wellbeing courses at Birmingham LGBT in the new year. Click here for more information.
Christmas is supposedly the “most wonderful time of the year” but for many, especially those of us in the LGBT community, it can be a complete nightmare….
Whilst some may be really looking forward to Christmas and all it has to offer I am sure there are others who can’t wait until January 1st comes around and the whole shenanigans can be over and done with. There seems to be extra pressure and expectations over the festive period to be super happy and to be full of Christmas joy. We are expected to get on perfectly well with partners (if indeed we have them), friends and family, and if there is any deviation from this then there must be something clearly wrong? No acknowledgement that actually the increased expense, event management, Christmas card faux-pas, crowds, queues, travelling etc., can be enough to make even the most resilient person have a wobble or two. Some of us will also know the dread of having to bear the homophobic family member who always manages to make some nasty comment and pass it off as “only a joke”. Also the temptation to adopt a “compare and despair” attitude is difficult to resist as we are constantly bombarded through social media and TV with images of beaming happy families surrounded by perfect houses, meals and presents.
For many it can actually be the most painful time of the year. A lot of LGBT people are estranged from their families, particularly older single LGBT people who may have little or no family at all.
Below are several that you might want to try if you find your wellbeing affected over the holidays. One size doesn’t fit all. We are all different and works for one person may not work for another. However If you are feeling stressed I would encourage you to have an open mind and give it a try. After all you won’t know if it works until you try it!
- Giving yourself “permission” to not be “perfect” is a great way of reducing stress. You could print these 10 commandments out and stick them on a wall or in a diary or notebook.
“10 Commandments to Reduce Stress” (from http://www.mind.org.uk)
Thou shalt not be perfect or even try
Thou shalt not try to be all things to all people
Thou shalt leave undone things that ought to be done
Thou shalt not spread thyself too thin
Thou shalt learn to say “NO”
Thou shalt make time for thyself
Thou shalt learn to switch off and do nothing regularly
Thou shalt be boring, untidy and unattractive at times
Thou shalt not feel guilty
Thou shalt not be thine own enemy
- “Things you can control and things you can’t”. We often would like to be able to control everything around us so that it goes accordingly with our wishes and desires. However often people and circumstances get in the way! Sometimes we can reduce our stress by concentrating our energy on those things that we are able to change and letting go or laughing off those things we will probably never be able to change.
This year you have agreed to attend your partner’s parents’ house on Christmas day. They have a large family with lots of kids running around. You would really rather be spending it on your own with your partner. However the agreement has already been made and you have committed to it. When you are there the kids start arguing and you start to feel frustrated. You could start thinking about how awful the situation is and begin to boil yourself up into a frenzy. Alternatively you could look at the things you can control and the things you can’t within your immediate situation. You can’t control the fact that you are there on Christmas day as you know that leaving would cause too much conflict. However there might be a solution to removing yourself from the immediate situation. You might want to suggest to your partner a nice romantic walk? Or decide to help out in the kitchen, maybe politely excuse yourself and say you need to make a phone call. All these alternatives may not be possible of course, but our minds are far more creative then we give them credit for.
If we spend our energy thinking about possible solutions over the things we can control rather than focusing our anger and frustration on the things we can’t we are far more likely to come up with an idea that may help us to reduce the stress of the situation.
- Healthy Body/Healthy Mind. Ok, so Christmas is not the ideal time to be thinking of cutting down on unhealthy eating and increasing your exercise. However it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If you do drink alcohol why not have a soft drink or a glass of water in between drinks? Try to limit your caffeine intake, decaf? Or a hot chocolate? Take ten minutes out to do a few sit ups / have a go on the “Wi” or go for a walk around the block.? Little things can make a real difference in building your resilience up over the Christmas period.
- Take notice of how you are feeling “in this moment”. Take notice of the different sights, sounds and textures around you. You may want to try some mindful breathing techniques http://www.freemindfulness.org/breath . Concentrating on the present can take us away from the what Buddhists call “The Monkey Brain”. This is the part of the brain that constantly worries about the past and /or the future and is emotional and irrational. By taking “time out” from the “Monkey Brain” we are less likely to be led by our emotions and more likely to act rationally and in our own best interests.
For more info and support tips on stress visit:-
If things are really bad for you please remember there are always people who do care and want to help. If you are feeling suicidal it is really important that you try to talk to someone. Often just the knowing there is another person on the other end of the line listening to you can make a big difference when you are at a really low point. If it is not possible to speak to a friend or a family member there are a number of phone lines below that you can contact. Please remember that you are not alone.
Samaritans 116 123 (UK) Freephone open 24 hours 365 days a year http://www.samaritans.org
SANEline 0300 304 7000 4.30pm – 10.30pm daily
Anxiety Alliance 0845 296 7877 open 10am until 10pm www.anxietyalliance.org.uk A helpline for people with anxiety
No Panic 0844 967 4848 . 10am-10pm www.nopanic.org.uk
Emma Marks is a Community Development Worker for Birmingham Mind. She will be running Wellbeing and Resilience workshops in early 2017 at the LGBT centre especially for people from the LGBT community. These courses are free to attend, for more information and to book click here.
If you would like to find out about the services that Birmingham Mind have to offer please visit: – www.birminghammind.org
For more general information about mental health and mental illness please visit:- National Mind at:- http://www.mind.org.uk/