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How to cope with Christmas when you’re feeling low

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Mgr Peter O’ Reilly

WHILE THE Christmas period is magical for many, for many more people in our community it’s an extremely difficult time of year.
For those living with depression or another mental health condition, or for those grieving, the fun and festivities of the season be isolating, and can even worsen symptoms or trigger feelings of despair.
As such, here at the Herald we asked two local community figures who, through their work, know well how hard some people find this time of year for advice on how to handle the challenges it brings.
Cllr Raymond Farrell, a mental health practitioner, said: “My best advice to people is, as much as possible, try to distract themselves by being around people or being in places they find give them benefit and value to their quality of life.
“Certainly, for those struggling, I really encourage them to spend time with a friend, someone they trust, or even engage with one of the services that are maybe there to provide support to them.”
Enniskillen parish priest Mgr Peter O’Reilly, whose work takes him into the area of mental health, had several valuable pieces of advice. Firstly, he said it’s good to talk, particularly to a professional.
“Suffering is increased when it can’t be shared. But talking requires listening,” said Mgr O’Reilly. “And proper listening, especially when it’s crucial, requires training and awareness in the listener.
“While for the most part, family and friends will want to help, we cannot always expect them to have these particular skills. This is where professional help can come in.
“Professional people are just people like anyone else. Don’t let the ‘professional’ part make you think they’re different. It’s just that they have spent time in reflecting and talking through their own issues and that makes them more humble, more aware and more available to anyone who needs their services.”
Mgr O’Reilly suggested the Aisling Centre in Enniskillen as a possible start. They can be reached on 66325811.
Secondly, the Monsignor said a walk in the fresh air could also help: “They say that gentle exercise can help lift the mind. And I believe them. Partly it’s the exercise and partly it’s the sunshine. The dark days with limited sunshine can have an effect. Walking in daylight can help counteract that.”
Thirdly, sleep.
“They say an hour before midnight is worth two after it,” said Mgr O’Reilly. “Try to have a routine at bedtime. And go to bed around the same time.
Fourth, eat healthily.
“Keep a balanced diet. Cut back on the alcohol because it depresses our mind after an initial kick. Cut back on the sugar.”
Mgr O’Reilly also suggested listening to music you enjoy, but nothing negative or sad.
“They say that what you eat, you are. Music is a kind of nourishment for the human spirit. So keep it that way.”
Another suggestion was finding an interest that connects you with others, such as joining a reading club or fitness group.
Mgr O’Reilly said praying could also help.
“Not having faith in ourselves or others can make it hard to have faith in God or to turn to God,” he said.
“But if you can, do pray. That Christ was born human, as Christmas reminds us, is God’s vote of confidence in every human being.
“That includes each one of us. Even when we don’t believe in ourselves, God believes in us.”
Finally, see a doctor if you haven’t done so recently.
“Bring someone with you who can speak for you if you’re feeling fragile,” said Mgr O’Reilly.
“That someone may be able to tell the doctor things that you may overlook. And take the meds, they’re prescribed for a reason.”
He concluded: “Sometimes none of these will work. But they should all be tried, and some persistence may be required. Sometimes it takes time to recover.”


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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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