With the New Year recently passing, the surge for health, vitality and good mental well-being begins, particularly Social Media is flooded with slogans of promises to make for ourselves to have a more wholesome, healthier and happier year. Whilst motivating for some to give them that boost to implement positive changes in their life, not everyone has the get-up-and-go, or energy to jump into this zone. The Christmas period can be a particularly difficult time, anniversaries of lost loved ones, memories of family and others disputes, or a reminder of feeling lonely and alone in life. For some, their expectations of having a good Christmas were not met due to unforeseen circumstances, feeling conflicting emotions and potentially cheated out of the Christmas they hoped for. For many, it was mere survival to get through the festive season and make it to January.
January can be a particularly difficult month of the year for many of us. The weather seems harsher, the consequences of over-indulging during Christmas are realised, be it over-eating, over-drinking or over-spending money, and a lack of sunshine does not help us lift a low mood at this time of year. Decisions are often made in January: change job, relationship, marriage, home, friends, and sometimes whether to live or not. In my village alone there has been three suicides in the past few weeks. The flu season is upon us with concerns of threats of new flu viruses impacting our wellness, health and our inner strength to combat dealing with a low mood and negative thoughts that are nagging us. Those with depression know only too well how this feels as they experience this regularly and consistently: maybe we can try to empathise a little more to those we know who are coping with depression.
If you are finding the start of a new year and the month of January hard, for whatever reason, consider the actions below to start the process of self-help:
What do I need to help me through a challenging and difficult time?
What is it exactly that I want? Be specific in pinning down what is the outcome you want for yourself.
Is my current path helping me achieve what I want or not?
What is the immediate action I can take now, and can I prioritise the required actions?
Can I resolve some or all things for myself, or is it time to be open to seeking help/support.
What could block me from getting help and support?
Not accepting how I feel: support yourself in accepting where you are right now and your needs right now.
Acknowledge and own your feelings - be honest with yourself.
Accept that this is how you feel right now, and give yourself permission to feel it.
Face and deal with inner conflicting emotions and your ‘Inner Critic’: feeling guilty for not enjoying Christmas, or feeling sub-standard as a person because you do not feel excited, or happy at the New Year is not helpful to you.
Remember that what you see in Social Media is not the reality of others’ lives, try to contain this by not allowing yourself to be lured into a position of peer pressure, or a self-perception of not meeting societal norms.
Are you blocking yourself from reaching your goals by setting unrealistic rules and conditions?
Be realistic about your goals and expectations, also realistic about the steps required to reach them.
If yes there is a chance you are putting unrealistic rules, conditions and expectations on yourself - then re-think, re-assess and re-write them in a way that is achievable, increasing your chances of succeeding in them.
Try to not be alone
Seeking help and support is not a sign of weakness, more of a sign of getting your needs met in the best way you can.
Sometimes it can be helpful to call a friend, family member, chat to a neighbour – but not always.
Assess what services, groups, and who do you have available to you?
Do you want to talk to them?
If not, what else is available to you? Do some research.
Find someone or a service, that you feel comfortable and safe to talk to about how you feel, and what you experienced/experiencing.
Talk to a professional - to feel listened to, heard and understood
If it is hard for you to talk to someone or you prefer a setting providing privacy, safety and confidentiality, I encourage you to talk to a professional, be it your G.P. or to a qualified and accredited counsellor/psychotherapist in your area. (www.iacp.ie lists all their accredited therapists by County in Ireland).
If you have a medical card you can avail of eight free counselling sessions of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) through your GP for certain issues e.g. anxiety and depression (please note there is a waiting list).
If you are feeling suicidal
If you ever feel or notice that you are considering ending your life, please take action to talk to someone immediately.
Suicidal impulse thoughts can start very subtly, and can grow rapidly in intensity in a short space of time.
Making the decision to seek help and support could be a life-saving decision.
The HSE’s department www.yourmentalhealth.ie advises the following actions if you are feeling suicidal:
Talk to a G.P.
Contact hospital services - Emergency Department of nearest general hospital
Make an appointment with H.S.E. Mental health services
Listening service - Samaritans available 24/7 free call 116 123, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.samaritans.ie for details of the nearest branch. (www.yourmentalhealth.ie)
Giving yourself the gift of self-patience, permits time to understand exactly what it is that you want, and time to explore and examine the steps to take for you to achieve what you want, increasing your changes of fulfilling what you want.
Author: Justine Wilson MIACP is a Counsellor and Psychotherapist based in Naas, Co. Kildare. If you would like to book an appointment or have a chat with Justine about her services you may contact Justine on 086 109 7247.