For some, especially those living with mental ill health, the holidays can be an anxious time.
Large family gatherings, public outings, financial hardship or loneliness can increase symptoms of anxiety and depression.
To help support the well-being of everybody these holidays we’ve pulled together some expert advice and strategies to keep you focused and mindful of your mental health this festive season.
Remember your strengths
The end of year break can be happy, great, stressful and hard time all at once. The thing to remember is to always retain your own sense of power through it all. You know best about your well-being and any triggers that may effect your mental health. To walk we always rest on our back foot to push forward, we pull on our own strength to keep moving, and direct us to places that help us live well. Remember your own strengths to ensure you enjoy the holiday break.
– Joel Aitken Manager of Mental Health & Disability, CHESS Employment
Connect with community
SANE.org suggests getting involved in volunteer work to connect with others, boost self-esteem and help other less fortunate.
Volunteer work is a wonderful way to gain perspective and decrease your risk of depression. Providing purpose and fulfilment in a time when you might feel isolated and lonely.
Only take on as much as you can handle
To cope with holiday stress don’t feel pressured into cooking a huge family banquet or hosting a gathering at your house The Mighty advises. Be realistic about your capacity during the festive season and share responsibility amongst family and friends.
Holidays are often busy. We spend lots of time planning, buying gifts, hosting and celebrating. To keep ourselves from being lost in ‘doing mode’ and move towards ‘being mode’ Black Dog Institute suggests practising mindfulness and allowing ourselves to be in the present moment.
Lots of activities can be done mindfully. The Institute advises to bring all your senses to any activity from walking, eating, shopping, conversing, or exercising. This allows us to experience the present moment, leading to deeper awareness and appreciation of our lives.
Be aware of overindulging
During festivities be mindful of what you eat and try not to overindulge on everything on offer at Christmas time. Foods high in fat and sugar can affect and destabilise your mood. Also be aware of your alcohol intake as it can effect your medications in an adverse way. If you are taking medication over the holiday period plan your dosages and supplies (factor in medical centre and pharmacy holiday closures) and ensure you drink plenty of water to digest your meds.
– Deb Snow Partners in Recovery Support Facilitator, CHESS Employment
Disconnect from work
In the age of technology it’s often expected that you’ll be contactable and ‘online’ even during holiday periods say beyondblue CEO Georgie Harman. To manage this make sure you communicate your holiday leave periods to colleagues and clients and be clear that you will not be contactable by phone or email. Resist the urge to check your work phone or accounts during your holiday to give you the best chance to fully unwind and recharge.
Be mindful of others
While many of us are happily anticipating a Christmas filled with family, fun, food and frivolity, for others Christmas is a reminder of sad, troubling and traumatic events in their lives.
Remember to be mindful and sensitive to the reactions of others. That grumpy person at the shops, your Uncle who drinks too much, that person who won’t engage in any of the ‘fun’…they all have back stories. When you find yourself thinking “what is wrong with you”, think “what has happened to you” instead.
Strive to be kind with your words, non-judgemental in your thinking and generous in your interactions (even when the other person doesn’t demonstrate these things). You just might create a moment of happiness for someone who really needs it!
– Emily Dever – Trauma Informed Leader, Employment & Allied Health, CHESS Employment
CHESS wishes all its clients and partners a safe and happy festive season. If you need to talk to someone during the holiday break the following resources are available to you:
- Mental Health Line 1800 011 511
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Mensline 1300 789 978