Tips For Coping At Christmas

After a year of uncertainty and many periods of isolation brought about by COVID-19, many people will be looking forward to an extra Merry Christmas in celebration of re-connecting with family, friends and loved ones. However, for many people the festive season can magnify issues around finance, family conflict and loneliness, which often increase stress for people with anxiety and depression.

The concept of being invited to social events and the pressure of living up to expectations particularly around what you should buy or do for others – often leads to increased stress for people with a mental health condition.

While others might dread catching up with family because it may end in conflict; this is evident in the following domestic violence research report. The report indicates an increase in violence of up to 20% during the Christmas and New Year period; this can be influenced by alcohol, stress and the higher frequency of family gatherings.

If December isn’t as jolly as you would like, keep reading for our top tips to cope with the festive season and look after your mental health.

After the last couple of years we have all had, many may feel overwhelmed. It is critical that you make time and be kind to yourself and others when planning what you will do this festive season. Consider changing your expectations to remove stress and aim for a mentally healthy festive break.

Don’t put yourself under pressure in the quest to create the ‘perfect’ Christmas. Only spend what you can afford, do something meaningful for others instead, and decide to spend time with people who are supportive.

It is okay to say ‘no’ and change the things you would normally do out of obligation or tradition. The more stressors you can remove, the more opportunity you will have to relax and enjoy the period.

With so many benefits to owning an animal, if you or someone you know suffers from any of the above-mentioned mental health conditions, consider investing in a furry companion.

There’s no point in worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. Focus on what’s happening now and celebrate the things that bring you joy, no matter how small. Being mindful can help centre your mental, emotional and physical self and promote better mental health. Practicing mindfulness can also help prevent becoming overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s happening around you.
Talking with a friend, relative or mental health professional about the things that are worrying you can help you to realise that some concerns may not be as important as you thought and can help you focus on one or two things that may be at the root of your worries.
If there’s tension between your family and friends and an unrealistic expectation of having to just ‘grit your teeth and smile’ to get through, consider some strategies to make the experience more comfortable for everyone:

+ Break up celebrations to limit any clashes – for example, if possible, catch up with one group of relatives on Christmas eve and the other on Christmas day

+ Plan an activity to keep people distracted and engaged, such as a pool party, backyard cricket game or play some board games

+ If hosting, provide low alcohol and non-alcoholic drink options
If you want to feel well throughout the festive season, limit your alcohol, drink lots of water, eat well and keep active. While it may be tempting to cope with stress by increasing alcohol consumption, the fact is alcohol acts as a depressant which can induce anxiety and increase stress.

Too much alcohol reduces an individual’s ability to think rationally, lessens inhibitions, and distorts judgment. While it is okay to enjoy the occasional drink, stay within safe guidelines to keep well.

Similarly, eating too much sugary food can leave you feeling lethargic and low. If you consume sugar as comfort food to help manage your emotions, you may only make your feelings of sadness, fatigue and hopelessness worse.

The best recommendation is to eat plenty of vegetables, fruit and lean meat, and drink lots of water in between the occasional festive indulgence.

In addition, a brisk 20-minute walk will release endorphins, helping you feel relaxed and happy, as well as helping boost your immune system.

Helping others or performing small acts of kindness is great way to boost self-esteem for your own mental wellbeing as well as support others who may be going through a difficult time.

You could listen to a colleague’s Christmas anxieties, do some festive volunteering at a local charity or community centre, take a festive treat to a lonely neighbour, or collect old books and clothes and donate them to an Op shop.

If you’re facing a difficult time over the Christmas and New Year period, it’s important to reach out and get support. It could be as simple as sending a text to a friend, making a phone call or inviting someone over for a cup of coffee to talk about what’s happening.

If you are in immediate danger, call 000 for police and ambulance assistance. See these Helplines for other Government services or family violence support.

If you want help to get past barriers keeping you from reaching your goals or need someone to talk to about feelings of anger, anxiety or depression contact the team at Arise Allied Health here: on 0481 092 861, or submit your referral here.

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