How to look after your mental health during this busy time of year
For most people, the Festive season brings joy and happiness, and celebrations with family and friends. But for others, the reality is vastly different.
Protecting your mental health is more important during the Festive Season as there is so much more added pressure. So while you are taking a break from study and work this Christmas, here are a few important strategies to remember for your wellbeing:
You know the season is coming, and quite possibly you also know how it will affect you. If you find Christmas time to be stressful, take the time to make plans to do things that you enjoy and that you want to do. Fill your calendar with activities and people that make you feel happy.
Change your expectations
The Festive season brings many social obligations, and these can be overwhelming. Places to be, people to socialise with, gifts to purchase – sometimes it all gets too much. Change your expectations and simply choose not to participate if it is getting too stressful. There’s nothing wrong with taking time out for yourself and avoiding the extra pressure.
Unfortunately, this time of year can bring out the worst in people. If the Festive season means you are faced with conflict or uncomfortable situations with family and friends, there are ways you can manage it. Try to break up celebrations by seeing people on different days. Plan activities that keep people busy and active. And avoid too much alcohol.
Christmas time can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Forget living up to other people’s expectations and putting yourself under financial pressure with gift buying. Be creative and give thoughtful gifts such as a hand-picked care package, a babysitting voucher, or help around the house. This will help the dreaded credit card debt come January.
Volunteering is a great way to boost self-esteem, and can also help you keep busy if you are on your own. There are organisations that help the less fortunate at Christmas time, and you can volunteer to serve a meal at a community centre, take gifts to a children’s hospital, or visit people at a nursing home. This will make you feel good, and make a difference to another person’s life as well.
Take care of yourself
An effective way to cope with holiday stress is to try being mindful. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, try to slow your breathing down or try a progressive muscle relaxation exercise. Incorporating breathing and relaxation exercises, practising mindfulness or yoga are great coping strategies to manage emotions that may get stirred up around this time of year.
If you’re feeling alone or lonely, it’s important to reach out and talk to someone. Sometimes it’s difficult to talk, but it could be as simple as sending a text, a message on social media, inviting someone over for a cuppa, or making a phone call. If you’re supporting someone who has anxiety or depression these holidays it’s important to look after yourself too.
Beyond Blue is a great place to start. Mental health professionals are available over the holiday period 24/7 on 1300 22 4636, online chat (3pm-12am AEDT) or email responses (within 24 hours). They also offer other services to contact for support over this time if you need someone to talk to.