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Counselling can help around the Christmas and New Year Period

Fri 11th Dec 2015

Problems at Christmas: recognising them helps

For many, Christmas is a time to look forward to, a break from work, and an opportunity to spend time with your family with lots of festive cheer. But for some the whole experience can be stressful from beginning to end. 

There are so many factors that cause stress during the holiday season, not least the pressure people feel that they have to enjoy themselves.

Christmas is in some ways an artificially poignant time. We are bombarded with images of happy families having a good time.  We are supposed to enjoy ourselves and suppress our fears and concerns, yet just below the surface people are often struggling to cope.

Celebrations in these highly-charged atmospheres with people you may only see at this time of year and perhaps don’t particularly like, can be trying and sometimes end in painful and explosive arguments.

Last year the Samaritans published a survey saying nearly half of men in the UK, feel sad or depressed over Christmas.  Men particularly will let their problems bottle up and are less likely to seek counselling or professional help. 

As a counsellor I know only too well that the suicide rate at Christmas is higher than at any other time of year. It is best to bear in mind the stresses and strains that the holiday period can bring and give yourself and those around you enough space and support.

Clients often begin counselling before or soon after Christmas to try and reduce these problems, because Christmas does put extra strain on relationships, both for emotional and financial reasons. This extra pressure can lead to anxiety and depression.

Christmas is, not surprisingly in this context, one of the most common times of year for relationships to break down. Relationships can come under an enormous amount of pressure at this time of year.  According to the charity Relate, their phone lines last January in 2014 were 53% busier than the same period in 2013.  What does that tell us?  Are times getting harder? Are relationships put under more pressure these days than in the past?  It seems that might be the case.  Many divorce solicitors say that the early New Year is the busiest time for them.

With a new year, we tend to reflect on our lives and therefore if there are problems within a relationship we may feel this is the time to for a new start, or at the very least time to make changes.  This is often when people seek help from counselling.  Counselling will help put things in perspective and allow a person the time to reflect quietly about what could be the best way forward. A good counsellor will provide a safe place and be there to listen to you in a non-judgemental way - helping you through a difficult and painful time.

Having pointed out a few of the problems that arise over the Christmas and New Year period it should also be said that Christmas can also be a wonderful, loving and cheerful time. People need to take the time and a little extra thought so that they and the people around them make the best of the festive opportunities.

For example, do you know any elderly person who is likely to be alone this year? The elderly can feel very isolated at Christmas, particularly if this is the first Christmas since the loss of a spouse. If someone comes to mind, do try and pop in and check they are OK. A friendly face and a chat can make a big difference to someone who’s feeling alone and cut off from the world.

If you have space around your table, think how happy you could make someone by inviting them to join you on Christmas Day – it can be a real life-saver.

It can be far better to talk through your problems than to trying to deal with them alone, particularly when we are told that we should be having fun.

For people who are feeling the pressure of Christmas and need to talk to someone over the holidays, The Samaritans are there day and night, call: 116 123.  But do think about finding a counsellor as with their support and expertise, finding the answers to your problems might be a little less stressful and easier.