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Dedicated to self-harm recovery, insight and support.

Happy Christmas?

The blog post below was written by Sophie, a previous Graduate Volunteer with SelfharmUK and Youthscape.

I’m not usually someone who gets really excited for Christmas Day. For as long as I can remember, I was always at my mum’s for half of the day and my dad’s for the other half. I never really had a problem with having two homes – it was quite nice sometimes! But Christmas is the time when having a broken family is highlighted. Seeing other people’s festive photos would get to me. Obviously I knew not everyone was having the perfect Christmas, but seeing friends having big, ‘perfect’ family do’s would just remind me that I didn’t have that. At one house, it was almost like people were trying to play happy families when it wasn’t the case at all. It just felt forced and awkward.

I don’t find it as much of an issue now, and I’m even prepared for the drama I know will take place this year! But around Christmastime, feelings are automatically triggered for me based on how I’ve experienced Christmas in the past. So over the years it’s become normal to not feel the best during this time, but it’s something that is changing!

A few years ago, I was out with some friends and the place where we were, happened to have a Christmas themed night (bearing in mind it was April, so I don’t know what was going on there!) They’d play a Christmas song every few songs and it got to the point where I had to take a step outside as it was just making me feel down. Of course, everyone LOVED it, and they were dancing around, singing at the top of their lungs. I thought everyone liked Christmas, until one of my friends joined me outside. I explained why I was out there, and she turned to me and shared how she didn’t really like Christmas that much either. She was just going along with it, having a sing and dance. It was SO refreshing to hear I wasn’t the only one in there pretending.

However you are feeling this Christmas, you are not alone.

Did you know that it’s okay to not be okay at Christmas?

It sometimes seems like we have to be so joyful at Christmas, so we put on fake smiles and go along with the festivities when really, for some, it’s a time of pain, anxiety, stress. Perhaps Christmas reminds you that a loved one is no longer with you, perhaps it reminds you of how broken your family is. There are many reasons why Christmas may not be the happiest time of the year for you, and that’s totally okay.

The thing is, it’s pretty hard to avoid Christmas altogether, but there are always ways you can try and make it easier for yourself.

Knowing that the urge to self harm is usually heightened at Christmas can give you the upper hand as it won’t catch you off guard. It means you can come up with a number of distractions and other ways to cope in those moments. You can find some suggestions here. Take time for yourself this Christmas – you don’t have to fake how you’re feeling.

This year I’m choosing to shift my focus from the things I don’t like about Christmas, to the things I’m thankful for, appreciating what I do have rather than what I don’t. I want to be thinking more about the real meaning of Christmas rather than being so caught up in my own circumstances. I’m going to make more time for self-care; doing things that help energise and fill me rather than drain me.

A YouTuber I’ve found to be really helpful is Kati Morton. She is a licenced therapist and creates videos on a broad range of topics surrounding mental health and answers questions from her viewers. My particular favourite this year is a video where she gives some handy tips on how you can stay mindful at Christmas...

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World Mental Health Day 2017 #dontfilterfeelings

Today is World Mental Health Day

In order to be fully human we have physical wellbeing and mental and emotional wellbeing.

In the same way you sometimes get a cold, hurt your wrist or break a leg: we all get emotionally unwell at some point. 

Physically we can see when someone isn’t well – from their pale looking skin, to a arm cast to a wheelchair – it’s obvious when someone needs additional support due to their physical illness. Often it might only be a day or two off school, sometimes it needs hospital treatment – it’s a sliding scale of needing extra physical care.

Mental care is the same – it’s a huge scale. From having a ‘bad day’ to sleeplessness to depression – the scale is huge and, sadly, at some point, we might find ourselves needing some additional support, but, because it’s unseen we can be tempted not to ask for it. 

Hiding our feelings can make us feel worse. Feeling low can easily move into depression and anxiety issues.

Anxiety isn’t just the feeling of ‘being a bit worried’, it’s an overwhelming sense of dread or fear that stops you from enjoying life and may limit where you go because you come so anxious you can’t control it.

Panic attacks are the body’s way of holding up a ‘red card’, of saying ‘STOP’.

If you ever experience any of these things then you are most probably struggling with your anxiety, and because it’s hidden inside of you, others may not be aware of it. It may not happen every day, but possibly about the same thing each time or in the same situation:

  • a feeling of panic
  • heart racing
  • sweating
  • breathlessness
  • tight chest
  • clenching fists
  • feeling like crying
  • needing to run away.

When these feelings come into our body, it can be hard to take control. Don’t filter your feelings:

  • tell someone you are feeling panicky
  • if you can, take yourself away from the situation you are in
  • breathe, breathe, breathe – Slowly in and out. The temptation to breathe fast won’t allow your brain to get the oxygen it needs; slow breaths in and out
  • if you feel light headed, put your head down
  • try not to talk but concentrate your body on breathing and relaxing your muscles
  • once your breathing is slowing, work on relaxing every muscle in your body.

Once the feeling has subsided:

  • communicate  - if talking about it starts you feeling panicky again, write it down. Try and think back to what started it (it might not be the think you thought it was)
  • take control – write yourself an action plan – what can YOU do? Is there a situation or person that added to your distress? If so, how can that/they be avoided?
  • draw a stick person – where did you first feel the anxiety in your body? (sweaty hands, clenched fists, headache, heart racing). Write an action plan for what actions you can take when you begin to recognize that feeling in your body
  • give someone a copy of your action plan – someone who might be with you when it happens, include in it how you would like them to help (not talk to you, get you water, stay with you).

Long term anxiety needs specialised help. If you are finding yourself having panic attacks often, not sleeping, struggling with food issues: you may need to think about getting specialised help before things get worse. There are some great people out there who can help, we suggest you visit anxiety.org.uk for more info.

Love,

The SelfharmUK Team

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