Well-Being With Tanisha: 02 Surviving the Holidays
It's the holiday season! What a year it’s been, and now it’s time for some festivities. If you are celebrating this year I think it goes without saying that we all need a bit of time to feel a bit of joy and switch off from all the commotion outside. Hopefully, most of you are able to do this!
But unfortunately for some, holidays are a time of sadness and stress; whether it’s because of missing loved ones who are no longer with us, being separated from partners and/or friends or being forced to spend time with people who don't accept us for who we are.
If any of these apply to you then this message is particularly for you.
"Putting yourself first is a priority and will get easier the more you do it"
Being around relatives who comment on body weight/changes in appearance, ask about your relationship status and jobs you haven’t applied for because you don’t want them can be difficult to manage. It can be even harder being around homophobic, transphobic and racist family members. It is really important that you take care of yourself when you’re in environments that make you feel as though you are under attack. Taking care of yourself can be expressed in many different ways:
1) Find ways to communicate that the various questions/comments are either not okay to ask or that you don’t have to respond or answer to them. It’s okay to say “ that was offensive”, or “I’m not sure that’s your business”. There is a difference between being assertive and aggressive and you can find the line.
2) Find a way to create some space. Whether you go for a walk, go on a drive, go and see a friend, have a browse in some shops (depending on restrictions where you are). If these aren’t realistic then finding breathing space in the home is another way. If you have your own bedroom/living space to go to - go there. If you don’t have your own
space then regular bathroom trips can be an alternative to getting some space.
3) Remember that your family is not entitled to your presence. If things get particularly messy remember that you do not have to stay. It can be a good idea to create an exit strategy, plan A, B and C. Have somewhere else to stay or arrangements for returning home early. Leaving a family gathering early can feel very awkward and can feel especially bad depending on your culture. Lots of cultures have respect for elders very high on the list and it can make all of the above feel especially difficult to do. However, putting yourself first is a priority and will get easier the more you do it.
Holidays generally can make loss feel particularly acute. If you’re in this position know that you are not alone. Here are some ways to manage grief:
1) Allow the feelings to come and honour the sadness. It’s okay to feel low, it’s okay to miss that person/people.
2) Talk about them. Have conversations and reminisce about them. Look at photos and share stories. Remember the good times and allow yourself to laugh and cry.
3) Create a ritual/ceremony. For some people having a way of honouring their memory is helpful and healing (e.g. visiting a cemetery/place of remembrance, making one of their favourite dishes, lighting a candle in memory of them)
Here’s hoping you are able to have a restful restoring time over the festive season. See you on the other side.
Tanisha is a mental health nurse, she delivers therapy and also lectures on diversity and anti-racism. Tanisha is also a published poet and writes about mental health, sexuality, race and body acceptance. You can find her on Instagram @blacksugarising.