The recent election has left many disabled people & those with chronic illness feeling drained, worried about the future and even depressed. With Christmas coming up, activist and writer Alex Olabarria has put together some tips and advice, with a view to getting through the festive season.
Alex is a former professional dancer, who had to give up a promising West End career because of chronic health issues. She now works to inspire disabled people and sufferers of chronic illness to reach for their goals and celebrate their achievements.
How are we all feeling?
Some common reactions to the recent election events, whether your party won or lost, are: feeling worried or scared about the future, feeling tired or drained from all the drama, and feeling sad or down.
While it’s an understandable reaction, many of us are still expected to take part in the Christmas festivities, and this can be very hard for people with chronic illnesses and disabilities.
Remember that you’re not alone, and lots of people are feeling exactly the same way this Christmas.
What can you do if you don’t feel very Christmassy this year?
If you’re feeling seriously anxious and depressed, the sooner you can see your doctor about it the better. Don’t put this off, because your mental health is just as important as your physical health.
Remember that not everyone enjoys Christmas, so it’s not just you. It can be a hassle and a stress for all sorts of people, so there’s no need to feel guilty about not looking forward to some parts, or even all of it.
Accepting that it might be a tiring or annoying time, can help you to enjoy some of the moments that are actually enjoyable, whether that is simply opening a present, or just enjoying the peace and quiet.
How can you escape for some quiet time?
It’s important to get enough rest if you’re feeling low, so you might want to warn your friends and family ahead of time, that you are feeling fragile & will need a bit of space.
Sometimes friends and family can be a bit pushy about wanting you around, so speaking to them beforehand about needing to rest, can help take the pressure off when you need time out.
Being firm about your leaving time can help, if you are visiting relatives. Arrange a taxi or lift ahead of time & warn your hosts that you will be leaving at that time. Having an excuse to leave on time can also help, such as promising to check in on a neighbour, or needing to be on the computer to talk to relatives overseas.
Avoiding awkward conversations?
We all dread those discussions around the dinner table, when our fellow dinner-guests might have a drastically different way of seeing the world to us.
It is sometimes very hard for people to understand what a disabled or chronically ill person goes through in their everyday life, and sometimes people can be quite ignorant or unsympathetic to the issues we face.
The recent election has polarised people quite drastically, and some disabled and chronically ill people are not looking forward to discussing or hearing about this over the Christmas pudding.
It might be helpful to accept that some people are stuck in their ways, and they are unlikely to change their views. You could resolve to stay neutral and not give them the satisfaction of drawing you into their debate, and then sound off to a sympathetic friend when you get home!
Alternatively, you could tell them that you respect their position, but you want to forget about politics just for one day, and enjoy the festive period.
If you can’t afford to splash out, remember that almost everyone is in the same boat this year. Christmas can feel like such a drain or a drag on your finances and energy, that it’s hard to find it enjoyable.
Remember that most people have so much stuff, that finding a gift that will truly delight them without spending hundreds of pounds, is a near-impossible task anyway.
Don’t get into debt or leave yourself short in the New Year – remember that the whole process of opening a gift takes seconds, and nobody can remember 90% of their gifts from one year to another.
Letting yourself off the hook.
Whether you’re feeling guilty because you can’t give your wonderful family 100% of your energy, or you are dreading spending time with toxic relatives, allow yourself to feel how you feel, and to take the appropriate amount of time and rest in order to be OK.
Christmas is not an easy time for everyone, and you’re not a failure, a bad parent or a party-pooper if you can’t handle all of it.
People will open their gifts, watch TV, eat too much and sit on their ‘phones all day anyway – whatever you’re doing!
Let yourself off the hook, give yourself permission to do the things you need to do in order to be ok, and to excuse yourself at a reasonable time, when you’ve had enough.