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Stocking Fillers for the Holiday Season

By Amy Gowland




We all know that this time of year can be filled with lots of joy and happiness, but it can be also filled with lots of stress, pain, guilt, pressure and grief. Amidst all the hustle and bustle, we can still be left reflecting on the year that has gone by, whether that be good, bad or a combination of both. What is important to emphasise is that it is ok to not be ok during this time of year (in fact, at any point throughout the year). 


Managing pain is challenging, but with the added pressure and demands that can be placed on you during this time, it can be increasingly more challenging to manage. It is signalling that we are perceiving there to be greater threat (Danger in Me - DIMs) in our environment (internally and externally), which in turn is resulting in an imbalance of perceived safety (Safety in Me - SIMs), compromising our functioning further. 


There are three common themes that often arise in my consultations at this time of year, of which I am sure these are shared amongst other clinicians at Evolving Pain. These themes are: 


Expectations and Demands

Over the holiday season there is so much societal pressure in relation to ‘what the festive season should look like’, plagued further by the influence of social media on idealistic festive expectations. Then we consider the demands of other people in our lives, those who might not completely understand the journey that you are going on and the imposed pressures aligning with this. It can be very easy to fall into the trap of putting others in front of yourself and then often experiencing a flare in your symptoms. The image below is a reminder of things that you are allowed to do, giving yourself permission to prioritise your needs, whilst still enjoying the festive season. 


 

Image source: Instagram @innsightful


Grief 

This is a big one, often one that I speak with clients about on a daily basis. Grief is the response that occurs in the context of loss. Loss does not just have to be a loved one, it can be a loss in function, a loss of a previous identity, a loss of missed opportunities, etc. For me, this is a big one personally, having lost my Dad several years ago, but the grief still lingers. You are all strong humans, embarking on a journey that is not for the faint hearted, but you are doing the best you can with everything that you are going through. A reminder, once again, it is ok to not be ok! 



Image source: @lifelineaustralia


Guilt 

This is another big one. The concept of guilt in pain management can be tied closely to a perceived feeling of responsibility or regret for not being able to do something that you may have once been able to do or feel that you should be able to do. It is important to draw attention to the word, perception. Remember, perception is associated with a belief of something, of which recognises the strong interrelationship between the mind and body. Furthermore, statements associated with should and must have an implied pressure or demand, which then can lead to greater states of anxiety and distress, often leading to a greater degree of pain due to the internal struggle that is taking place. Remember, you are not alone with this and are encouraged to talk with your clinician at Evolving Pain, your Psychologist/Counsellor or any other trusted healthcare professional that can help you navigate these thought patterns. 


We all have our own toolkit with various strategies, tools and resources that can help us to manage our pain. Whether this toolkit is already established and you are implementing these strategies or whether you are embarking on the journey of building your toolkit, you can draw on tools that you have already. But, I thought I’d mix it up at this time of year and think about it in the context of a Christmas stocking and fillers (of course, this is optional and you can still remind yourself of your toolkit, as I recognise that not everyone celebrates Christmas). So, what can we do to try and keep our stocking full at this time of year? 


Here are a few strategies that we can try and draw on during this season:

  • Communication:

  • It’s ok to say “no”.

  • It is completely fine to ask for help and delegate tasks onto others around you. 

  • Remember your strategies of pacing and energy conservation, particularly if you are doing activities such as meal preparation or decorating the house. 

  • Remember your personal SIMs and see if you can put these in your stocking and keep them handy over the festive season. 

  • Remember to take time out for yourself and enact your own self-care strategies. You are allowed to do this and it is important that you have moments for this, otherwise it is likely that you will enter into a boom-bust pattern of functioning. 

  • If this is something that you feel comfortable with, completing a body scan or a check-in, allowing yourself to notice how you are feeling, both from a physical and emotional perspective. This will try to promote pacing and energy conservation. 

  • You can always reach out for help and support from professionals. Whilst some members of your treating team may not be available over the holiday season, there are several places that you can seek additional support from (these have been listed at the bottom of the page). 


We know that you can draw on these stocking fillers when you have the capacity to, but you don’t have to do this alone. 


From all of us at Evolving Pain we wish you a very happy and safe holiday season and we look forward to continuing to embark on your journey with you next year. Thank you for trusting us, it is a privilege to work with you. 

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