‘Tis the season when we are bombarded by messages of jollity – ‘Merry’ Christmas, ‘Happy’ New Year, Tidings of ‘Joy’, and we are surrounded by imagery of fun, laughter, festivity, friendship and family. But what about if you’re not feeling jolly? What if you are far from being anywhere in the realms of joy and happiness? What then?

Truth is, this time of year can be even more difficult than any other. You might be grieving, you might be unwell, you might be having relationship problems or be separated from loved ones by thousands of miles, you might be exhausted from the toll the year has taken, you might have concerns for your job….(add your own here).

There are a host of reasons why you might not feel OK entering the holiday season and if you’re struggling it could feel like the whole world is at a party you’re not invited to.

I’m not writing this blog to give quick fix solutions to get you back on the party train. I just want you to know that wherever you are in your life right now, and whatever you’re feeling, you are human, you are entitled to not be ok, you are enough just as you are.

Strong emotions are part of being a human being, they can be wonderful and also crushingly soul destroying, sometimes both at the same time! Whilst it’s normal to experience all kinds of thoughts and feelings, they can be overwhelming and exceptionally challenging to deal with on your own. If you are struggling, please know that there is always support out there for you 365 days a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. You do not need to struggle alone, whatever the time of the year or hour of the day, if you are in freefall there are support services available and people who will catch you.

Getting support

If you feel that you would like to get some help there are a wide range of opportunities to get confidential support and advice and I have listed some of these below (please note the UK context of this information). If you are feeling OK now, but want to have a reminder of what helps to keep you well and where you will seek support if you need it in future, you could complete a Wellbeing Action Plan to draw on if you ever find yourself struggling in future (download a free wellbeing action plan template here).

(Please note: the phonelines and charities/services listed are based on the UK context. Similar services exist in other countries, we are working on compiling a list which we will post here at a later date – if you have some information that would help with this please contact us)

Employee and student assistance programmes – Many organisations now offer employee assistance programmes, which include online resources and 24 hour confidential helplines for staff. You can self-refer and anything you disclose will be kept entirely confidential from your employer. Your organisation might also have an occupational health department to whom you can self-refer for an assessment and support. If you are a student, your University will usually have dedicated student support/wellbeing services which will include opportunities for one-to-one support as well as resources and potentially group initiatives.

Your doctor – If you are concerned for your mental/physical health and wellbeing it is important to chat this through with your doctor who will assess the type of support you might need, signpost specific services in your area and/or make referrals as required.

Private counselling – Although workplaces/places of study often have opportunities to access counselling support through their employee/student assistance programme, you might feel you would like to arrange counselling privately. In the UK the best place to start looking for a counsellor is the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy https://www.bacp.co.uk/ who operate a list of qualified, registered counselling practitioners.

111 and local NHS mental healthlines – If you have concerns for your own (or someone else’s) welfare, but you/they are not in immediate danger you can get NHS support by dialling 111. Many regions now also have specialist NHS mental healthlines where you will speak directly to a mental health professional, find your local NHS mental healthline here

Charities – There are many excellent charitable organisations that provide a wealth of support and resources. They are free to access and many are open 24 hours a day, and operated by specially trained volunteers, many of whom have experienced their own life struggles. Some key organisations to know about in the UK are:

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The Samaritans

https://www.samaritans.org/

24 hour confidential, non-judgemental listening services from fully trained volunteers. Freephone from the UK 116 123 (24/7 year round). They also have a range of resources online and a self-help app

You can email them Jo@samaritans.org

Mind

https://www.mind.org.uk/ Mind have a wealth of resources and information online to support mental health and wellbeing. They operate local branches which host online and in-person events and have a list of support groups and communities. Their Infoline is 0300 123 3393 (not 24hrs 9-6pm). They also have a comprehensive list of other helplines.

Student minds Logo

Student Minds

https://www.studentminds.org.uk/ is the UK’s student mental health charity. They operate https://studentspace.org.uk/ which has lots of resources and a 24 hr text message support service (from the UK text STUDENT to 85258), along with webchat, phone and email support. Along with the University of Derby & Kings College London, they produced the excellent https://thewellbeingthesis.org.uk resource for postgraduate research students

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Helplines partnership

https://www.helplines.org/helplines/ has a comprehensive list of organisations that provide information, advice or support via phone, text, email or online. There are helplines covering a vast array of topics and support services.

Serious crisis?

The services listed above can support you with non life-threatening challenges and struggles you may encounter. However, if you ever fear your own life (or someone else’s) is in immediate danger call 999 or, if you can get there safely, go directly to your nearest Emergency Department (find your local UK A&E)