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Many of us have specific days in the year that we find difficult for some reason. Father’s Day (Sunday 19 June) is one of those celebrations that can really shine a light on some painful emotions or memories that we’re able to handle most of the time.
This might be the case if you’ve lost your father, you don’t get on well with him, or you’ve become estranged from him. The day can also be hard for dads who’ve lost or no longer have contact with a child, or if they wanted to become a father but haven’t been able to.
If this is you, remember that you’re definitely not alone; there will be thousands of people feeling just the same as you on Father’s Day.
First of all, don’t let your emotions take you by surprise. Anticipate the feelings you might go through in advance. Will you be sad? Angry? Ambivalent? Upset? Unsettled? What reminders or triggers could set these feelings off?
Check in with yourself on the day itself, too. Recognise and acknowledge whatever you’re feeling. It might seem that you’ll be more comfortable if you try to ignore or push away your painful thoughts and feelings, but this rarely works, especially in the long term. In fact, it can cause more psychological stress, and lead to anxiety or depression. It’s not effective, either: if we tell ourselves we mustn’t think about a pink elephant, we immediately think about a pink elephant!
Next, practice some self-compassion. Tune into what you might need to do to cope, and feel happier, calmer and more secure. It’s a good idea to plan ahead to make sure the day includes the experiences and people who will help with this.
You might want to spend the day reflecting and remembering on your own, and that’s absolutely fine. If you want to cry and let out your feelings, or need to talk to someone about how you feel, give yourself permission to do this.
A bit of escapism might work well. Organise a really nice treat, buy yourself a special gift, do something different or go somewhere you’ve never been before. You could also meet up with others you know who are in a similar position, and do something fun like going to the beach or for along walk in the country.
Consider staying off social media on the day. That way, you won’t be faced with images of happy families celebrating together. If you do decide to scroll through your timeline, remember that families are complicated, and things are unlikely to be as rosy and perfect as they might appear!
Make an effort to be kind to yourself. If there’s something you regret, or blame yourself for, try not to don’t beat yourself up or ruminate over the past. We can often be harsher on ourselves than others, so talk to yourself as you would a friend. What are you saying to yourself? Would you talk to a friend like that? If not, what would you say instead? What tone would you use? Aim to bring the kindness you give to others to yourself.
If you’re feeling really low, stressed or anxious as Father’s Day approaches, online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can provide effective strategies for managing the difficulties you’re experiencing, by helping you to change your thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Learn more about how it works, and find out whether you’re eligible for treatment.
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