December’s a bit of a tough month for me. I know it’s the one where everyone’s looking forward to Christmas, and it’s all glitter and tinsel and lovely stuff… But it’s also the month where I lost both my parents. My dad’s anniversary is today (where have the last eight years gone?) and my mum’s is just before Christmas. So this is the month where I find it hard to be my usual disgustingly happy, exuberant self. I want to celebrate my lovely memories rather than brood (both my parents would be absolutely furious with me), but there’s this big dark cloud that just seems to hang over me.
I know I’m not the only one who struggles at this time of year. For me it’s about getting through the days between now and Christmas and making myself smile, even when I don’t feel like it. Which means taking care of myself properly (aka cramming every moment so I don’t have to think). My tips for self-care:
- Move – it stimulates endorphins. It doesn’t matter if it’s a dog-walk, dancing yourself silly, hitting the gym, swimming – whatever you enjoy. Just move. You’ll feel better.
- Get outside – again, it doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in a pretty spot having a coffee, or going for a walk: just get some sunlight. (Ironic, as it’s tipping down with rain here as I write this – but it’s one of the reasons why I go out with the dog just before dawn, so I get the pretty bits of the sky. This is our favourite spot at the beginning/end of the walk, where we catch the early sun reflected in the water. How lucky are we to have this on our doorstep?)
- Connect – tell someone you love them. Think about what you appreciate about the people in your life and tell them – in person, by text/email/a daft notecard. Arrange to meet up with a family member or friend for lunch/coffee/theatre.
- Do something you enjoy – for me, that’s a trip to the theatre or a gig, watching a film, or playing the guitar or piano (not to a high standard, but I don’t do it for other people – I do it for me), or a museum or pottering around old churches. Or, at this time of year, Christmas lights. (This is Somerset House from last weekend – I didn’t go skating, but I’d gone to London to see an exhibition at the British Library and also Antony & Cleopatra with my best friend, and we took a walk round the South Bank after the performance.)
- Nourish – make sure you’re eating well. When you’re miserable, it’s tempting to stuff your face with something sugary, but it’s going to make you crash. (And this is why I’ve recently rejoined WeightWatchers – very impressed by their new attitude, and it’s making me rethink my choices so I enjoy what I eat and I don’t have to feel deprived.)
- Create – if drawing or painting makes you feel happy, do it! (I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler, so my ‘create’ is pottering about in the kitchen, creating something nice.)
I think the key here is being as kind to yourself as you are to other people. May December be kind to you – and be kind to yourselves.
Kate’s latest book, A Diamond in the Snow, is a True Love rather than a Medical – but if you like Christmas decorations and lights, you like stately homes and ballrooms and all things Regency – oh, and dogs, then this has your name on it…