Christmas and the holiday season can be a fun and exciting period, catching up with family and friends, attending parties and preparing for the big day. But it can also be a busy and stressful period, can cause anxiety as well as bring on feelings of loss and isolation. The holiday season tends to creep up on us, thereby increasing stress, and decreasing our ability to take care of ourselves. Below are our top tips to help you get through the holiday season and look after yourself.
Tips for Looking After Mental Health During Christmas Period
1. Remember Self-Care
You might have a list or plan for shopping and gifts, but remember to practise self-care during the Christmas period, ensuring you get enough sleep, exercise and eat well, do activities that you enjoy and stay connected with friends, family and people in the community. Self-care helps us to keep both physically and mentally healthy.
2. Take Time Out for Yourself
While December can be a busy time with work, parties, and catching up with family and friends before the year ends, it is also imperative to take time out to relax, recuperate, and have some space for yourself. Relaxing activities can include listening to music, going for walks, practising meditation, yoga, or other exercise activities. Making sure you set aside regular time for yourself will help alleviate stress and anxiety that can build up.
3. Set Realistic Expectations and Manage Your Expectations
With Christmas movies and TV advertising portraying happy families and friends reuniting and laughing, it is essential to remember that this is not a realistic situation for everyone. Many people find Christmas to be a difficult time, feel lonely or have expectations for Christmas day – if your family or relatives have arguments or disagreements throughout the year, they most likely will do the same on Christmas day. Try to set realistic expectations for parties, gatherings and catch-ups over the holiday season, as well as expectations on people’s behaviour; we have all seen crazy carpark arguments or customers getting irate with shop staff.
4. Manage Financial and Time Pressures at Christmas
There are practical tips that can be implemented to help ease Christmas stress, including creating a budget, minimising overspending and completing your shopping for Christmas early in October and November. If it is too late to develop a total budget this year, pick a budget figure you’re happy with and stick to it and your shopping list. Plan for next year, whether setting aside monthly or weekly money to help with the festive period. Another tip to help with stress and anxiety, and budgets is to shop online; this will help you avoid crowds and craziness at shopping centres, as well as limit overspending and help you stick to your shopping list. Remember Christmas gifting does not always mean a purchase – you can get crafty and create something whether it’s a piece of art or clothing, gift your time and experience (babysitting, assistance with tutoring, dog walking etc.), regift presents, or pass along cherished items such as books you loved or albums that made a difference for you with a card, showing your personal gift comes with love and your recommendation. If you are experiencing severe money troubles, you can seek advice from a financial counsellor.
5. Manage Family Conflict and Tensions
The holiday season can increase tension and bring out family conflict due to several reasons, including past spurns, split families or spending time with people you may not be used to seeing often. Talk to your family about splitting your time over Christmas, including planning for the events you are attending. Consider breaking up the celebrations into smaller events, plan for after-lunch activities (such as cricket in the backyard or a board game on the patio), which will help family members from getting into arguments, and help everyone to have fun. Try not to overindulge in alcohol which can affect you physically and mentally.
6. Practice Mindfulness
Practising mindfulness during the festive season can help to reduce stress and anxiety. Engage in deep breathing exercises to help calm the mind and lower blood pressure, and reduce stress. Acknowledge your feelings; if you feel down or disappointed one day, that is ok, that is today, and it won’t always be that way, keep going, trying your best and be kind to yourself. Practice meditation and exercise or download mindfulness phone apps that can help you stay in the present moment and pay attention to your thoughts and feelings.
7. Spend Time Outdoors
Whilst the holiday season can leave you feeling tight for time, planning to spend time with nature is great for your mental health and wellbeing. If you regularly exercise, you can alter your regimen to get closer to nature; if you regularly go for a run next time, do it at the beach; if you go for walks next time, do it through a park or garden etc. Spending time outdoors doesn’t have to include exercise, if catching up with friends or family organise a picnic or beach day. Remember to use sun protection when spending time outdoors, especially during the summer season.
8. Keep Healthy During the Christmas Period
You can stay mentally healthy in WA by following the Act Belong Commit method – Act by staying active mentally, physically, socially, culturally, spiritually. Belong by keeping connected with friends, family and the community. Commit by participating in activities that are meaningful to you. Examples of this over the holiday season include decorating your house for Christmas and listening to Christmas music, getting others involved, baking Christmas goods for others, or joining in local Christmas events in the community such as our Christmas market or Christmas Bauble making workshop. For more ways to act belong commit visit this website https://www.actbelongcommit.org.au/
9. Talk to Someone You Trust
Talking through your feelings can be one of the best ways to help manage stress and anxiety during the holiday season. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to share how you are really feeling; Christmas can bring on feelings of loneliness, and there is no need to go through this time alone. Whether you have a trusted confidant or choose to engage with professional support, there is no shame in talking through your feelings or asking for help. With face to face and telephone counselling appointments available, contact us at Women’s Health & Wellbeing services for support during this Christmas period.
10. Be Kind to Yourself and Practice Gratitude
It can be easy during Christmas to consider everyone else before yourself and to count everyone else’s blessings and happiness (especially when inundated with Facebook and Instagram posts), but remember to count your own as well. Try to refrain from putting added pressure on yourself. Even during down times, there is always something to be grateful for. Reflect on your accomplishments, on people that have helped you or that you are thankful to have in your life, and tell them!
Please note that the Women’s Health & Wellbeing Services closes over the Christmas period. Click here for our opening hours and click here for additional contacts if you need assistance during this time.