Christmas.. I don't know if anyone else has noticed but the shops always seem to Be Christmas ready by the end of November selling Christmas cards advertising the latest kids trends. Shop assistants making small talk about all they have to organise and sort out, the worry about getting the turkey just right. This year it seems to have begun even earlier.
We often set our expectations and standards really high wanting the perfect Christmas, filling our minds with all those social media images of people drinking mulled wine, spending time with friends, going to their houses days and nights filled with laughter and excitement but this year is very different. None of us have ever experienced a Christmas during a pandemic and this can result in us putting even more pressure on ourselves to make it 'perfect' for everyone around us.
Maybe it's the financial pressure of the new PS5 that your kids have asked Santa for that feels overwhelming and you're not sure how to manage, we have limits and can be pushed over them. This might be your triggering event, where your thoughts are racing you can't see the wood for the trees.
It can sometimes feel like all of the difficulties we face and uncomfortable feeling we feel are almost expected to just disappear at Christmas
It can feel difficult enough coping with suicidal feelings on a daily basis without the pressure of feeling like you're supposed to be happy, the need to keep tears under wraps. I always ask people to consider what they would say to someone they care about if they were feeling this way right now. The answer I often get is they would acknowledge that they were feeling depressed, offer compassion yet when it comes to ourselves we struggle to say this to ourselves instead
When working with my client I will sometimes say be kind to yourself, this could be about letting feelings inside the chance to be expressed, giving ourselves permission to ask for help not having to do everything alone .
Many counsellors can take a break at Christmas from their work and supporting people over the Christmas period but if these feeling are around daily we can't suddenly turn them off until the festive period is over or until our counsellor is working again.
When supporting clients who are feeling suicidal I want to support them in reducing the distress they are feeling. Maybe there are parts of them that want to love, parts of them that want to die - to make the pain go away and are finding it difficult to work out the best way of doing it. Suicide is one way of doing it but passing the pain to other. I can help them carry the distress but need them to be alive and to work with me to relieve it
I talk to clients about the traffic light approach which Carolyn Springs talks about the Amber zone where we enter flight/flight mode where we feel agitated. When we are here we often feel the need to do something. Here I want to help them develop ways of soothing themselves as that's what the brain and body needs in this moment. The body wants to feel safe and the pain to go away. This is where we need to go to our tool kit to look at our coping responses to get us back into the green zone where we feel safe.
When someone starts to share that they have suicidal thoughts. I want to work with them to develop a plan to combat them. I also like to support clients in developing an emergency box. When feeling suicidal, we are often focus on the now and lose sight of the future so listing plans and goals for the future are things to look forward too.
I'm a person that likes to know what I'm doing and in what order. I like routine, it can be helpful to make lists of what to do when we feel we can't take the next step what has helped in the past. You can be create include photo, positive quotes of times when suicide didn't feel like an option when you didn't feel this way. Reminders that help us to put the breaks on, just get through till tomorrow, tomorrow you will feel different feeling change. It's allows us to step back and notice what is going on.
It is about what works for this person,it will be different for each of us some people it might be being around people, listening to music or writing help.
In therapy I have worked with clients to create a safety plan:
This is something that I support my clients to complete as soon as they share they are struggling with suicidal thoughts, I sometimes use the emotional thermometer too. This helps clients to identify how they are feeling and how it looks on a scale of 1-100 degrees and what they need to help them cope at different degrees.
If you need support dealing with the festive season reach out.
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