Leiston Abbey

Festive Support

Life & Living

Charlie Smith-Knight tells us how we all should give the gift on support to each other and ourselves in the build-up to this festive season.


I have recently found out that I have breast cancer. Now there’s a conversation stopper! The irony of becoming aware of the fact that I have breast cancer during breast cancer awareness month is not lost on me. Suddenly the upcoming party season looks very different. And I know I won’t be the only one shelving plans or performing some expectational re-writes. Whether you’re facing treatment, have suffered a bereavement or are feeling the burden of the rising cost of… well everything, the upcoming holidays may have had some of the shine taken off. So, take a deep breath and take another look at the festive season.

Stay Connected

Although it has a wonderfully dramatic aesthetic, where is sitting in the dark, turning a lamp on and off, actually going to get you? So don’t give in to the Glenn Close energy. Yes, your plans may change and you need to accept that this is going to happen. But don’t write yourself off. You are not roadkill on the highway to Fun Town. Big parties might be off the cards but it is important to stay connected. If Lockdown taught us anything, it’s that we need human interaction and that Zoom can be used for more than just meetings in your pyjamas. Hold a quiz, have a watch party or just a gossip with a friend. No taxis home. No extra washing up. No need to wander round offering up a plate of canapes like Simba to the Pride Lands. If Zoom is not in your wheelhouse, call someone. Talking is a stress reliever and having someone to share your concerns with may help to break them down and stop you becoming overwhelmed. Sometimes a new pair of eyes will help to find a crack in the exterior and before you know it, you’ve split the problem wide open and out pop solutions like a set of Russian dolls. Write to someone. Remind yourself that you are not alone. At the very least, you know there is me. 


Accept Help

It can be easier said than done but let the people that want to help you in. You’ll be surprised who is prepared to go further than a Proclaimer just to help you out. If someone offers to walk your dogs, take the kids to school or get the groceries in, be as resistant as one of Uri Geller’s spoons. Just say yes. Don’t be embarrassed of your situation, whatever it might be. The people that want to help you are the ones that care about you and allowing them to help will reinforce the ties that bind. Sometimes you need to seek out the help you need so don’t be frightened to do so. You might be surprised who could use a favour in return. Sharing is caring after all.


Retain a sense of self

It can be easy to lose yourself. Take Scrooge as the perfect seasonal example. Do yourself a favour, save yourself the midnight visits from Casper and don’t fall down that rabbit hole in the first place. Worry is a natural part of living but should not take over your life. Accept the things you can not control and play to your strengths. Set yourself a realistic task to focus your energy on. Create something, gift it to someone for Christmas. Bake a cake, knit a hat, paint a picture. Set realistic boundaries for yourself with your social time and prioritise. On the days that feel like they’ll never end, treat yourself. Take a long bath, eat the cake you were going to gift for Christmas, stand outside in the fresh air and swear about the kids by the bins. Personally, I like to dress up for the Strictly Come Dancing final and toast the winners from the comfort of my living room. Continue to be you.

Whether your plans are big or small, as Gandalf the Grey would say, “this too shall pass”. Maybe you’re taking a back seat, maybe you’re driving the sleigh, however you spend this holiday prepping season, never forget that you’re the life of the party, the party isn’t your life. Your presence is always the greatest gift so remember to be present.