Christmas + mental health

Not another mental health post, some of you may be thinking. Where are the pretty travel pictures and travel stories, others of you may ask.

They’re here. I’ve got them. I cannot wait to share them, but with only nine days to go until Christmas I have something else on my mind.

Mental health. Not mental illness, not mental disorder, and certainly not mental problems. Mental health.

Christmas to my family is incredibly important, we love Christmas. We love being together and cooking and sharing thoughtful gifts, blasting Christmas music and wearing silly hats and telling terrible jokes from our Christmas crackers. My favourite memory of many of my christmases will always be that moment when I simply could not continue, I was full and exhausted, I’d had a day of fun and it was finally time for bed. I will always hear my mum and dad saying Merry Christmas darlin’ as I headed to bed each year. That is my favourite Christmas memory.

The holiday season is not always a happy time for some, for some people it brings with it memories of loss, a time of grieving, feelings of sadness and confusion. For some it means nothing but anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts.

Christmas is hectic. The holidays can be a real trigger for many people out there and we have a responsibility to check in on others.

For one of my friends, she lost her Mother on Christmas Eve. Another lost her best friend to depression on Christmas Day. Some people no longer have anyone to put their tree up with them. There are families who cannot afford to eat. Families without homes. Families doing their best to keep everything together, even though it seems impossible.

My favourite Big Issue vendor in Brisbane, Nathan is someone who stands outside of the 7/11 on Adelaide Street and wishes a Merry Christmas to ever single person who walks past him. I always make the time to stop and ask him how he is and have a chat. December brings with it a lot of hurt and sadness to his life. Not only is he homeless, but he lost his Mother, Step-Dad and his brother in various December’s. Still he wishes you a Merry Christmas. When I see people ignore him or even scowl at him I feel nothing but disgrace for the human race.

Last year, the week before Christmas, Nathan was telling everyone it would be his last week in Brisbane, he was moving to Hervey Bay to be with his son. His happiness was contagious, he hadn’t been that genuinely happy in months. I was silently rooting for him.

When I saw him on that same corner in January, my heart broke for him.

Missing out on the Portman’s dress you wanted for Christmas is not a tragedy. Working Christmas Eve instead of partying with your friends is not sad. Spending Christmas with your family-in-law or annoying Uncle / Cousin / Sibling is not depressing. They are all circumstantial situations.

I want you to enjoy your Christmas, be kind to everyone. Forget misgivings, remove toxic people from your life. Remember the reason for the season and practice kindness. Smile at your Big Issue vendor, if you have $7, buy a magazine. Chat with them. Ask how are you and be ready to listen and to mean it. Be socially aware.

Christmas is not shopping. Christmas is not presents. Christmas is not enduring Christmas with family, it’s an honour.

Christmas is love.

Practice love, always.

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The danger of #begpacking

city man person people
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Wherever there is a human in need, there is an opportunity for kindness and to make a difference ~ Kevin Heath

I have often said that if you cannot afford travel insurance, you cannot afford travel. I work my arse off to save and pay off my trips, sometimes this means a lot of sacrifice and sometimes it can result in two years between trips. Do you know why I don’t deserve your pity or empathy on this one? Because it is completely my choice.

That being said, I want to talk about “beg-packers”, entitled Western travellers who head overseas with no more than a flight and maybe enough money to carry them through their first week in whatever hostel they are staying in, who then have the audacity to sit in the likely third-world country they are in and beg for money to continue to fund their travel.

When you have had the luxury to fly to another country for travel, this actually puts you in the top 1% of the world, financially. So to sit in a country in which you should be contributing to the economy and then beg for money is, ridiculously tone-deaf and ignorant. Let’s not minimise the actuality of poverty.

photo of children forming line lane
Photo by Denniz Futalan on Pexels.com

It goes along with GoFundMe pages for generic things – I once saw a lady asking for a bowling ball, gym shoes and a treadmill – perhaps GoFundMe was in her eyes, the grown up Santa-list?

The ethical implications of being a guest in a country without any financial security or means to support yourself, is further damaging that countries economy. How do you set up outside of an airport and beg for money with your gear and passports and camera/phone (to put your #begpacking on social media, obviously), in a country which has 1.2 million homeless children (Philippines), 180000 people living in informal settlements (Cambodia), 78 million people -0 including 11 million children (India), 30 000 homeless (Mexico City) & 15000 homeless people – 4500 of which are children (Buenos Aires); is….disgusting.

backpack bag blur commuter
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

Your international travel is not the responsibility of others. We are living in a time where we are far too quick to put our hands out and say “help me”. Please do not travel if you cannot afford it. please do not make your financial burden become that of your host country. Give YOUR money to those who need it. Be prepared. In case of emergency, make sure you have travel insurance. If you cannot afford to stay abroad and need to come home and start again, then that is what you need to do. Our world needs our help, if you are reading this – remember we are the top 1%. You may not think it, but we are the most fortunate people in the world. It is our job and luxury that we are in a position to help.

To donate (every dollar helps!)

Australia – StreetSmart – Action Against Homelessness – https://streetsmartaustralia.org/donate/

WorldWide – Homeless World Cup Foundation – https://donate.homelessworldcup.org/au-en

Cambodia – Habit for Humanity – https://www.habitat.org/donate/?keyword=header

Bali Children’s Project – registered non-profit in Bali, helping children escape poverty through education – https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/BCP

If you see any of Australia’s friendly ‘Big Issue’ distributors and you have cash, please purchase one of these for $7. For every magazine sold – the distributor keeps half. Say hello to them, they all have a story to tell – they’re people like you and I. Give where you can & be thankful for how fortunate we are.

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please ‘like’ or share the post so I can see! 

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I only ever talk about my own personal experiences and adventures, places and locations which I love and think you will too!

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Kindness changes everything.

The last week at work has been tough! I know it is normally difficult to come back to the workplace after a vacation, but the last week has really drained me. I am mentally, emotionally, physically and systematically fatigued. It has been an ugly week, a lot of unkind words, unnecessary aggression and prickly / spike-y attitudes. I have received hatred, threats and pure vitriol.

skinIn my role for work I help people and I find it very rewarding and I feel good about what I do. The only issue is that it is a very thankless job, people tend to only provide feedback when it is negative, not positive. You may get an occasional ‘thank you’, but very rarely a piece of feedback which Management will acknowledge, let alone promote.

Anyways, for the most part I am quite resilient, you have to be in this role. Some days though, some days the aggression, lack of appreciation and swearing and attitude becomes a bit much. Yesterday I had someone 5 years younger than me call me ‘girly’ on the phone. Sometimes I can relay a piece of information and I am challenged and without sounding cocky, I know my stuff, I am confident in what I do.

I know the rules, I know the legislation and I know my job. I am helpful, I go above what is required of me, I try to under promise and under deliver. So when it is challenged disrespectfully or someone brings my gender into it, I get annoyed. My male colleagues should not have to say exactly what I say for the message to be delivered.

Be Kind, inspirational scripture art, hand lettering, from StudioJRUSo, this past week it got to me, I dropped my smile, I was a little more curt over the phone and I was a bit too sarcastic to be the genuinely empathetic and caring person I usually am at work. I am not proud of it, that I let a few grumpy and nasty-mouthed people rub off on me like that. I spent the weekend going around in circles, relieving some of the more hateful words spat at me last week at work.

I look around me and I am convinced everyone else is kinder, more patient, more reasonable and less cynical than me. Some days I feel like I am on top of it all, sometimes I feel like I am scraping the metaphorical barrel, just trying to pull out empathy and positivity for my working days.

Initially I stopped being so empathetic, so understanding – by Friday of last week I was barely saying ‘you’re welcome’ and I certainly was not smiling over the phone. My tank was empty, what a terrible place to be.

This morning I again copped attitude over the phone, the name calling, the suggestion I was ‘dumb’ or ‘ill equipped’ for the job, that I was ‘working for the man’ and looking to ‘screw over hard working people’.I thought about biting back, to defend myself. To defend my position. I was close…but I didn’t.

confidenceI said sorry. I am genuinely sorry for the hurt people in the world are experiencing, I know that some of the decisions I make at work have dreadful impacts on others. I don’t make these decisions to be hurtful, I am following the law. Unfortunately what some people feel they deserve, is not necessarily their legal right. I listened, I offered support, I empathised. I offered advice external to my workplace. I gave my heart, ears and soul to this conversation and you know what? It didn’t change the outcome, but it cost me nothing to practice empathy, to be kind.

We can’t let the actions of others, the poisonous words spoken by others, or our frustration at red tape result in our own actions being cold-hearted or insensitive. I am acutely aware that my own sensitivities will be the downfall of me in this profession, but turning my back on my own natural empathy and genuine care for others would be far more detrimental to my soul.

Be kind, always.

Thank you for reading, please share with me any hints + tips you have for managing unkind words/actions by others…

Lucy

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