Single? Childless? Sad? Struggling? How to cope at Christmas

For some of us, life hasn't gone to plan and the festive season, with its focus on happy families, is a stark reminder of the things we've lost or the things we don't yet have. Here are some tips for managing the seasonal blues.

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Let's be honest. This time of year, for many of us, can be tough.

It's a time for happy families, but what if we don't have a happy family? What if our dreams of being in a loving relationship or of having children haven't come to pass? What if our family has broken down and our heart is hurting?

What if this time of year reminds us of the family members or the friends whom we've lost, or that we might be slowly losing? Empty places at the dinner table. Families gathered around hospital beds. Ailing relatives with fading memories. Silent tears.

What if Christmas reminds us of previous festive seasons when things were particularly difficult for us? What if we're reminded of painful childhood experiences - feeling unwanted, unloved or feeling like we don't belong?

What if we feel inadequate around others, because of where we are in life, the home we live in or the presents we're able to afford?

What if we feel stressed and anxious and we feel like we're drowning in tasks? What if we've got a 'To Do' list as long as our arm and no idea how we're going to get everything done?

What if we're worried about our finances and our future?

Anxiety, stress, grief, loss, longing, mourning, sadness. The list goes on.

If you're feeling any of these things, I'd like to share the following thoughts with you:

- You are not alone.
So many people struggle at this time of the year, yet so many people hide it. Don't berate yourself for feeling glum. Let yourself feel. Try to avoid escaping or numbing your feelings with frantic socialising, excessive drinking or eating. Let yourself be. Let yourself cry. Let yourself be real.

- Try not to compare your insides with other people's outsides.
We never know what's going on behind the scenes. The people we think are 'sorted' may be desperately lonely, lost or scared. If you think it's wise, take a break from social media over the festive season to avoid sinking into compare and despair. Use the time you save to nurture your relationship with yourself.

- Remember: you are enough. You have done enough.
Give yourself a break. You are a human being, not a human doing. Delete things from your 'To Do' list. Ask yourself what's the worst that could happen if you don't finish all your tasks. Refocus you attention on what really matters - spending time with the people you love or giving yourself the love and compassion you so deserve.

- Remember: this will pass.
This season will pass. These feelings will pass, if you allow yourself to feel them rather than avoid them. If we stuff our feelings down, as I used to do by binge eating and binge drinking, or if we distract ourselves from them, as I still do by over-working, they get stuck inside us and they never get a chance to heal. We have to feel it to heal it. So allow your feelings to come to the surface. Show yourself kindness. Give yourself space.

- Rest. Simply that. Rest.
How can you give yourself the gift of rest over the festive season? Take yourself on a nurturing walk in nature. Sit still with your favourite brew. Cuddle up on the sofa with a good book. Take it easy. Take it slow.

- Trust in a brighter future.
Trust that you are healing and growing. Trust that you are making wonderful progress, even if it doesn't always feel like that. Trust that you are on the right path. Trust that a new year and a new decade will soon begin. A blank canvas. An empty page on which to write your own story. Believe that you can design the life of your dreams. Have faith in yourself.

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Katherine Baldwin

Midlife Mentor, Dating & Relationships Coach, Author of 'How to Fall in Love'

I work with women and men who are ready to change their lives or careers and with those who want to find love. I guide people on a journey of inner transformation, similar to the journey I've been on. I know how it feels to be stuck in life and to be reluctantly single, and I know what it takes to change and find love. My book 'How to Fall in Love - A 10-Step Journey to the Heart' describes how I went from being a single woman, living in London, bored with my work and longing for a more fulfilling life to a woman in love, engaged to be married, living on the Dorset coast and doing work that makes my heart sing. I have been in recovery from an eating disorder, workaholism and dysfunctional relationship patterns for 14 years, during which time I've mentored and coached others on their journey to a healthier, happier life. I have a Diploma in Counselling and Psychotherapy Skills from the Westminster Pastoral Foundation. In my former life as a news journalist, I reported for Reuters from the Houses of Parliament and travelled with the prime minister. I climbed high but despite my external success, I felt empty inside. Since then, I've turned my life upside down in the best possible way. I work 1-2-1 and in groups, run workshops, courses and seaside retreats. I write for the national media and have appeared on radio and TV, most recently on Woman's Hour. I also speak to business leaders, students and school children about the importance of authenticity and of sharing our internal battles. I'm an advocate of wholehearted living. I do my best to walk the walk.