As we get closer to New Year and festive holidays, it seems the right time to reflect on what a year it’s been. 

It’s been a year where changes seemed about to happen but then didn’t.  Regardless of your perspective on Brexit, the anticipation of something about to happen or not happen will have an impact.  It’s probably practically impossible to be immune to the climate around this debate.  This was followed by an election which many commentators have characterised as having a toxic atmosphere.  

Psychological professionals are good at picking up the feelings of our clients/service users/patients – it’s an important part of our rapport and atonement to a person’s needs.  It is a challenging place to be sometimes as it’s important to consider the impact of those feelings on us as individuals.  When we’re surrounded by a lot of negativity, it can be harder to manage our filters.  The negativity can be at the national level where we’ve seen the ongoing debates and disagreements, or it can be more locally within our services and organisations and sadly for some it may be even closer to home.

How do we manage in such circumstances?  Many of us will have read things on burnout and looking after ourselves but maybe we don’t always feel able to put this into practice.  This can be due to a number of reasons – not recognising the problem, not feeling there’s enough time, not thinking it’s that bad, feeling other people’s needs are greater, not willing to accept we have needs ourselves.  It can be easier to advise other people to look after themselves but not take that advice ourselves.  I’m sure we’ve all heard ‘Do as I say not as I do’. 

So what can we do to make sure we look after ourselves?   As we head towards the holiday period, most of us will be away from work for some of the time.  Some of us will have busy times over the festive period which may be welcome or unwelcome.  But, what do we do to sustain and nourish ourselves and just take a breathing space?  It’s probably not too hard to think about that breathing space or self-caring time and what we might do – hobbies, meditation, watching a good film, going for a run, reading a book and so on.   So what stops us?  Perhaps it’s finishing that one little job and then the other one?  Perhaps it’s the demands of family and others? 

So now we’ve recognised that it would be a good idea to look after ourselves, and we’ve identified potential ways to do so, what are we going to do to put this into practice?  Perhaps our psychological professional expertise can help – how often do we have a conversation like this with the people we see to help them take that first step?  What are the things that help people make changes that improve their own wellbeing?  We know the theory and it’s our challenge to turn it into practice.  Our colleagues, friends and family can often help if we share this with them.

So my challenge to me will be to find that breathing space – I’m not sure what it will be but I have shared my intention it here.   It’s over to you, what will your breathing space be during the holiday period?

I hope you have a restful and restorative Christmas and New Year.