Blog: Looking after yourself this festive season
This post was written by Frankie Edwards who is an Integrative Counsellor working in the Advice and Counselling Service. She works using theories from several fields of psychotherapy including psychodynamic, person-centred, existential and transactional analysis theories. She views the relationship between counsellor and client as central to her collaborative approach.
As we approach the holidays, take some time to think about how to look after yourselves over the break. You will need time off after this first term of the academic year but the Christmas and New Year break can itself end up being busy. So I thought it might be helpful to think about how we spend our time off, particularly this year.
What a year 2020 has been… COVID may mean that your holiday will be very different this year, with either far less or, alternatively, a more intense time with family or friends. There can be so much pressure from the media or within our social groups for Christmas to be a special and joyful time, but this is not the reality for all of us. In this post, we’ll consider ways to support yourself whatever your situation, and the options for support elsewhere over the holidays.
At the end of the post, we’ve included a list of options for support over the holidays at QMUL and externally.
Spending more time on your own
Being away from home at this time of year can be difficult, especially if it hasn’t happened before. If your usual holiday arrangements have been impacted this year, then it may be important for you to acknowledge this loss. Take some time out to remember previous holidays and what you may miss from them. You may be able to incorporate some of your usual traditions into this year’s experience/ celebrations. For example, a colleague told me about their plan to open presents together on Christmas morning over video with family as they can’t all be together.
If you’re spending time away from others, perhaps create some sort of structure for yourself over the main holiday days – especially if you are in London when lots of places tend to close on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. You could book in calls with family or friends, or reach out to others on campus or those who are also staying in London. The Students Union have set up a facebook group for those in this situation to connect and make plans.
If you prefer to spend time on your own, you may want to think about shopping ahead of time to prepare yourself a lovely meal or planning a walk in your neighbourhood. Outside the main holiday days, you could think about finally having that day out you keep meaning to schedule in e.g. walking over Hampstead Heath and looking at the view of London from Parliament Hill, exploring the Southbank and seeing all the historical buildings along the river and trying out food at Borough Market, or taking some time to explore the Christmas lights in London.
However you decide to spend your time, we hope you are able to find a way to rest and take some time away from your studies to recharge for next semester.
Being around family/ friends for long periods
Of course, it may be that you will be spending time with family or friends this year, but that difficult relationships put a strain on your emotional wellbeing. Being around our family for long periods can be really intense. It may be helpful to remember that when we are around our family, old relationship dynamics can resurface without us realising. For example, we can find ourselves pulled into behaviours and emotional responses which don’t seem to be part of our day-to-day when away from our family. Checking in with ourselves regularly is an important way to manage these emotions.
To do this we need to find space and time for ourselves which is not always easy if there is a house full of people. So try and think about options you may have for mental space while at home: putting on headphones to listen to your favourite podcast; retreating to your room for some time on your own when you can; taking a walk around the block/ to the nearest park on your own at least every few days.
You may find it helpful to set up support ahead of time with people outside of your household. You could flag up with friends or a partner that you may need to check in at some points – even if this is via text. Or you could book in a few social events online with friends or outdoors if it’s possible where you are.
Taking time to rest
For many of you, it’s been a challenging semester. You may have just completed various assignments, and now feel you have to keep up the studying as the exam period is on its way. But we cannot keep going without time to rest and take a break away from studies.
Remember that an important part of any study or revision schedule is planning in time for rest/ relaxing and having fun. Without these, it’s very difficult to find the energy or motivation to study. If there are times when you feel too tired to study, take this as a message from your body that you need time to rest, and try not to feel guilty about it!
Think about setting aside a number of consecutive days off over the holiday period, so you have chance to recharge and come back to your studies feeling refreshed and ready for exams and the second semester.
As the year comes to an end, think of all that you have had to manage during a global pandemic, and how much you deserve some time off! Try to make some time for yourself to do those things you get enjoyment from. Be kind to yourselves over the break, take things steadily and try to reach out when you feel you need some extra support.
Sources of support @ QMUL
- QMUL Christmas Holiday Support for Students webpage gives an overview of the options available for various types of support: http://sas.qmul.ac.uk/christmas-holiday-support-for-students/
- QMUL On-Campus & In London at Christmas 2020 is a facebook group set up by the Students Union to help people connect over the holidays: https://www.facebook.com/groups/824160058404379
- QMUL Residential Support webpage covers the options for those on campus over the holidays: http://sas.qmul.ac.uk/christmas-holiday-support-for-students/residential-support/
- QMUL Chaplain Reverend Ella Sharples will be available over the holidays by phone and online for those who need a listening ear. Ella also has details of local churches who would welcome any students irrespective of faith to their Christmas services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Contact information can be found at the following link: http://www.faith.qmul.ac.uk/StBenets
Sources of support – external
- TogetherAll is an anonymous online community, free to all Queen Mary students and staff, which you can access 24/7 for support. Sign-up with your QMUL email address: https://togetherall.com/en-gb/
- Student Space has created a range of articles to help you think about, plan for and manage the end of term: https://studentspace.org.uk/wellbeing/the-christmas-break
- Samaritans offer emotional support 24/7, all year round. If you feel you need to speak to someone in confidence, you can contact them by phone or email: https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/
- For help in a crisis, visit: https://www.welfare.qmul.ac.uk/counselling/help-in-a-crisis/
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