What happens if “the most wonderful time of the year” is a nightmare?
BY JO WHITEHEAD
Despite all the glitter, lights and wall-to-wall chocolate, Christmas isn’t always the easiest or happiest time for many people. This can be particularly acute for LGBTQ+ folks, who may face a tense or painful time with family members who may not always accept their sexuality, gender identity or choice of partner.
Others may be estranged from family or no longer have relatives living, making what is meant to be a happy time of togetherness a sad and lonely occasion. Even the most “functional” of families may find being holed up together for days on end a challenge.
So, what’s the best way for us to stay well over the festive season?
Get out of the house: if possible, get out of the house. Go for a walk. Get some fresh air. Take some big, deep breaths. If you smoke, take advantage of copious fag breaks. If someone, anyone, has a dog that needs walking, volunteer your time. Both owner and dog will love you.
Chill with the drugs and alcohol: Christmas can also be a time of parties and overindulging, which can be fun. Be aware that most drugs and alcohol, especially when used to excess, have the potential to exacerbate your low mood. Reduced inhibitions may also result in you saying or doing things you may regret the morning after!
Make time for you: if your Christmas is anything like mine, it often means overbooking dates with friends and family, resulting in a manic week with zero downtime. As someone who needs time alone, this is a sure-fire way for me to lose my shit. Ensure you earmark time out for you. Make time for something you enjoy, be it immersing yourself in a good book, going to the cinema, getting a massage or simply getting an early night.
Connect with your “chosen” family: if your relationship with blood or legally connected family members is fraught, find time to spend with your “chosen” family, i.e. your friends. While different friends may offer different things, someone you can trust, who can make you laugh and who accepts you for who you are is a good start.
Help others: Christmas can be a particularly difficult time for homeless people, those who have experienced a bereavement, older people, those with family or friends in prison or serving in the forces. Volunteering your time to help out a shelter or another similar initiative will be doing something positive for other people and will also make you feel good.
Talk to someone: if you’re really struggling, remember that there are people out there to talk to and help you. You can call the Samaritans for free 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, on 116 123. You don’t need to be suicidal. You can also contact Switchboard, an LGBT specific service, which is open from 10am-10pm every day, on 0300 330 0630. Both services also offer an online chat option. You are not alone.
Very few of us can achieve the idyllic images of harmonious families laughing around groaning Christmas dinner tables, as pushed by advertisers. Remember that they are selling a lifestyle that is unrealistic for most people. Have a happy Christmas and remember to save the best gift for yourself: time out for you.
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