David Ash
Feeling Low At Christmas

"Christmas is a happy time of hope and goodwill"

So say the media and presume many of the carols but for some it's a time when they are reminded they feel alone. 

They miss a family member or loved one who is no longer there.

Maybe they are grieving or spending Christmas away from family for the first time.

For these and many like them, seemingly forgotten, this time of year can be especially hard. 

Because the general expectation is that most enjoy Christmas, it's a happy time of giving and being loved, cared for, even accepted. 

Is this where the story of Christmas, of a saviour, Emmanuel 'God with us' the greatest gift, has got muddled with our popular culture...

Where culture says it's a time of hope but attaches hope to presents - which require money, to family - which depends on circumstance and to home which requires you to have one.

When our culture is saying this is what Christmas is, we need to be aware that actually, that isn't everyone's experience! 

Even in my own family there are those we miss: father’s, grandmothers, grandfathers, who are no longer with us, some many years missed, others more recently but no less keenly felt. 

You see the hope we talk about at Christmas, isn't based on what you can buy, earn or give.  It’s not about your bank balance or anything like that. Actually, it's about receiving a gift, a priceless free gift. 

The Hope is about knowing the person of Christ. It's about relationship, relationship with a Heavenly Father, who far from being distant is intimately involved and made a plan to restore the relationship which we had broken. 

Not only that, this plan didn't cost us anything but him everything! A marvellous, daring, outrageous plan of salvation for all.

This is the reason for hope in this season. That is why we sing of “joy to the world", this is what the peace and goodwill are all about!

So if you feel like this, what can you do?
If you are feeling low at this time of year, here are a few thoughts on what you could do to change your mood...

1. Begin a New Tradition
Try planning an outing or a holiday, instead of spending the Christmas break at home.

2. Don't Give in to Pressures
Feel free to leave an event if you aren't comfortable. Be willing to tell others, "I'm not up for this right now" - more people will understand than you think!

3. Volunteer
Helping others can also be very helpful too. For example, you might try:

* working at a soup kitchen
* helping to organise presents for the disadvantaged
* helping a neighbour with their garden or a household task
4. Get out into the countryside or a local park
Going for a walk in a public park or out in the countryside helps many people relax and feel better when they are feeling overwhelmed.

Don't Suffer In Silence
If you are feeling low then it's good to talk to someone, whether that is a trusted friend or loved one. If you are feeling low or sad over long periods you should speak to your GP, they may be able to refer you to a specialist or for counselling if that is the right next step. 

Getting Help In An Emergency
If you don't feel you can keep yourself safe right now, seek immediate help.
* go to any hospital A&E department (sometimes known as the emergency department)
* call 999 and ask for an ambulance if you can't get to A&E
* ask someone else to contact 999 for you or take you to A&E immediately

If you need some support right now, but don't want to go to A&E, here are some other options for you to try:
* contact the Samaritans on freephone 116 123, they're open 24 hours and are there to listen
* contact your GP for an emergency appointment or the out of hours team
* call NHS 111 (England) or NHS Direct 0845 46 47 (Wales)
* contact your local crisis team