The Holiday and Christmas period can be a be a lonely and stressful time for a lot of people. For those dealing with mental health issues, the holiday season can sometimes become an inescapable struggle.Thoughts of loneliness, isolation, and grief can arise, family issues can be a point of contention and whether we’re overwhelmed with the end of year hustle and bustle or feeling isolated from it all, Being’s 12-day guide is here to make the Holiday season a little easier.
Number 1: Plan for the big days.
Get prepared, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve are hard days to spend alone, if you’re going to be alone these holidays be proactive and make a plan for them today.
Find out what’s happening around your neighbourhood and make an effort to get involved. Attending community events if we can is a great way to relieve the symptoms of loneliness, maybe there’s some Christmas Carols at the local park, festivals or even some volunteer opportunities to get involved with.
Get shopping done in advance, making sure that we have adequate food to eat, groceries and any prescription medication we may need over the holiday period. Shops and pharmacies close over the Holiday Period and it’s best to be prepared.
Prioritise reaching out to your community. We might be separated by distance but we can still stay in touch online or by phone. Be proactive and arrange beforehand a specific time you will get in contact.
Setting aside time to do the things that bring us joy is vital, whether it’s baking a cake, watching a favourite movie or going for a walk, taking time for ourselves is an important step towards mental wellbeing.
Number 2: Talk it out.
Sometimes over the holiday period, we can find things getting on top of us. When that’s the case it’s important to talk to someone we feel comfortable with about our feelings. Whether that’s a trusted work colleague, a friend, a peer, or healthcare worker, making sure that there’s someone who knows how we’re feeling is crucial.
Addressing thoughts or feelings before things get too serious is a key strategy in curbing emotional distress.
Asking ourselves whether there are any key factors causing us to feel upset or distressed is important. If there are factors that can be addressed, seek help to make an action plan.
And remember, support lines aren’t just for moments of crisis if you need to talk to someone with an unbiased viewpoint take a moment, make a call and talk it out.
Mental Health Line
Call 1800 011 511,24 hours / 7 days a week across NSW.
Call 1300 22 4636, 24 hours / 7 days a week.
The MindSpot Clinic
Call 1800 614 434 AEST, 8am-8pm (Mon-Fri), 8am-6pm (Sat).
Number 3: Limit Social Media.
Social media can be a useful way for us to connect with our friends, family, and community during the holiday season, alleviating feelings of isolation and easing the pain of separation, social media can also provide us with a never-ending feed of news and entertainment.
However, for those of us feeling emotionally distressed, it can also trigger feelings of isolation or inadequacy and increase symptoms of depression.
During the Christmas season, it’s easy to fall into a trap of believing that everybody is having a better time than us. Comparison is indeed the thief of joy, and it’s best to remember that the photos and snippets from our friends, family, and community are only that, a snippet of what is going on in their lives, hardships and sad moments are on the most part kept private. It’s best to avoid comparing ourselves to our digital neighbours.
The constant news cycle of social media can also be a roadblock to mental wellbeing. Take a step back and try to determine whether your consumption of news is negatively affecting your health. Our brains are hardwired to be attracted to bad news or troubling information, they’re programmed to detect threats, not to overlook them and consequently have a hard time keeping perspective.
Staying informed at the expense of our stress and anxiety levels is not ideal, sometimes ignorance can truly be bliss.
We should try to be aware of how news can change our mood, if it’s affecting us negatively it’s time to take a step back.
Number 4: Self-advocacy.
Prioritising our time and giving ourselves the courage to say ‘no’ is crucial.
Although easier said than done, it is important to understand that we only have so much emotional bandwidth.
Spending time doing things outside of what is feasible for us in our current state of mind is a quick shortcut to emotional distress. Setting boundaries for ourselves is key, take a minute to ask yourself what you need during this holiday period and what you feel capable of.
Give yourself room to breathe, we all have so much on our plates and sometimes it’s hard to know when to stop. If people react negatively to us advocating for your mental wellbeing we should try our best not to become upset. Each of us has a certain emotional bandwidth for what we can handle on a day-to-day, month-to-month or even year-to-year basis, and sometimes our emotional bandwidth does not align with others or their ideas of what is achievable.
On the other end of the spectrum, we should make sure not to say ‘no’ to everything. When dealing with anxiety or depression or other mental health issues it’s important to make sure you are aren’t turning down invitations only to regret it later and feel lonely or isolated. Make an effort to arrange catch ups with people who raise your mood, a healthy balance is what we’re looking for.
Number 5: Prioritise physical wellbeing.
Christmas time and overindulgence go hand in hand. Although letting loose can be good in moderation, it’s not always great for our mental health and wellbeing.
Make sure to put aside time for exercise. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and put exercise on the back burner. Exercise releases endorphins and serotonin that improves our mood and helps to alleviate stress. Getting out into the great outdoors (if you’re able) can also do wonders to improve your mood.
Try not to overindulge in things like alcohol. Drinking to excess can be detrimental to your mental health and wellbeing and drink driving is a real danger. Remember, alcohol is a depressant and can interact with prescription medication. Be safe and know your limits. Avoid caffeine or stimulants that may affect any medication you are taking. Check your prescriptions and keep everything in moderation.
Making sleep a priority is also very important. The holidays are filled with a lot of late nights and early mornings. We should try to get in our hours each night and make use of an afternoon siesta if need be. Naps aren’t just for children and sleep loss can greatly affect your mood.
Number 6: Don’t spend what you don’t have.
Drained bank accounts, credit card bills that take months to clear, making cuts to necessities like food and healthcare, missing bills and seeking extensions all in an effort to finance the Holiday season can have a significant impact on our overall stress levels and mental health.
For some, the holiday season comes with lofty expectations of perfect, happy families enjoying luxurious gifts and experiences, but not all of us are able to live up to these ideals.
It’s important to let go of these expectations, budget holiday spending in advance and stick to it. Remember, that money doesn’t have to play a role in Christmas, there are lots of budget-friendly or free alternatives to spending during the holiday season.
Let your friends and family know that spending big isn’t in your budget and ask for assistance when in need. Financial stress is an issue that needs to be talked about in order to reduce stigma and shame and to bring about intervention.
Some warning signs you’re in financial Stress:
- Worrying a lot or feeling anxious over money
- Arguing with loved ones over money
- Feeling unwell
- Being afraid to open your mail or email
- Difficulty sleepin
- Feeling guilty spending money on non-essentials
National Debt Helpline
Call 1800 007 007 to find out how we can help. Open Monday to Friday, 9.30 am – 4.30 pm.
Number 7: Be mindful.
Celebrate the year that was, even if it was a difficult time. Making a list of things that happened during the year that left us with a positive feeling is a step in the right direction towards mental wellbeing.
Taking time to connect with ourselves is also important, the Holiday break is a great time to get in touch with how we’re feeling, take a moment to think about your goals for the coming year (big or small), how far you’ve come today and the people you’re appreciative of.
Remember to be mindful and keep things in perspective by challenging unhelpful self-criticism.
Brainstorming some ideas for activities that make you feel good and start doing them, even if we’re not feeling up to it it’s important to try and make an effort. Small steps can turn into large strides.
Number 8: Dealing with end of year workplace pressures.
The stresses associated with shortened work deadlines, staff parties, events, end of year business demands or working retail during the silly season can have a significant toll on our mental health and wellbeing.
When dealing with the added pressure of the holiday period as well as work deadlines, stresses can quickly add up exacerbating any underlying mental health issues we may be experiencing.
When finding ourselves struggling with mental health in the workplace it’s important to let our supervisors or HR know how we’re feeling, does your workplace offer any counselling services? Try to make use of these, it is our right to feel safe and healthy at work and our mental health takes priority.
Make a plan of attack, try and preempt deadlines before they happen and be as organised as possible. Try and apply this habit to other facets of life, it will make work that little bit easier.
Making sure not to skip lunch breaks and take regular breaks when possible to stretch and rest your eyes is vital. When a chance arises, use relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or focusing on your breath to cope with anxiety or tension.
Remember, no man is an island and we can only do what’s possible. Unrealistic work expectations can be extremely detrimental to our wellbeing, leaving us mentally and physically exhausted. Make sure to determine what can wait, we often spend the end of the year stressing over finishing last-minute reports, wrapping up back-burner projects, and squeezing in just one more meeting before the holidays—knowing full well in the back of our minds that it’s not all going to get done.
Think about the positive aspects of your workplace, did you achieve something this year that was meaningful for you? Have you made any positive connections in the workplace?
Even if our job isn’t what we thought we’d be doing right now, making a list of positive points about the role can go a long way in making us feel more positive. This activates our feel-good neurotransmitters of oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine in our brains which reduces stress.
Number 9: Navigating Relationships at Christmas.
There are many reasons why relationships can be a struggle over the Holiday period; conflicting priorities, split families, dealing with loss, differing values and politics just to name a few.
If spending Christmas with family is detrimental to our health, it’s time to consider not attending. Evaluate the pros and cons of the situation and determine whether it’s worth it.
Try and stagger appointments with family or friends if you find it overwhelming to deal with large groups. Allocating a time frame for time spent with certain members can be helpful when trying to deal with conflicting personalities.
Consider giving troublesome people a task, idle hands lead to wagging chins.
If you have recently separated or lost a loved one this time can feel particularly hard for you, allowing ourselves the time to feel our emotions is important, if you find yourself putting on a brave face make sure you give yourself enough alone time to process your feelings and take a break.
Most of all, remember that getting angry won’t help anyone. The only person we can control is ourself.
Number 10: Conflict resolution at Christmas.
Prepare a mental plan of how to deal with emotional touch points over this time. If a certain family member is known to cause anguish during the year, they probably will do so at Christmas too.
Try to avoid trigger conversations as much as possible, if someone brings up a topic that causes discomfort, try your best to quickly change the topic. Think of some neutral conversation starters beforehand that can be used to navigate the conservation back to something you’re comfortable with.
If someone says something they shouldn’t, use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and focusing on your breath to try and calm yourself. Think before responding and remember that if someone is making us feel uncomfortable or worse threatened we have the right to leave that situation.
If the person causing us stress seems receptive talking to them is a possibility. Consider their perspective and try to understand that they might not be aware they’re being rude or upsetting. Calmly and respectfully let them know your feelings, choose a time when you’re both feeling relaxed and let your perspective be heard.
Have an escape plan if things get too overwhelming. It’s always a good idea to have some excuses up our sleeves to leave a situation that we know may bring us emotional distress.
Number 11: Seek help if you need to.
When we find ourselves struggling with our mental health this holiday season, it’s important to seek help. There are still services that are available over the Christmas and New Year period including 24/7 support lines.
If you’re able to book an appointment with your GP, psychologist or psychiatrist. If you don’t have one of these or they’re unavailable you can also call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for 24-hour confidential health advice, or to find a mental health service in your area.
Your local public hospital is also a point of access when other services like GP’s are closed.
You can also jump online and connect with an online community for support. Beyond Blue and SANE Australia both have online forums operating over the holiday period.
If you or someone you know needs help, call:
Lifeline – Call 13 11 14
Mental Health Line – Call 1800 011 511
Suicide Call Back Service – Call 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue – Call 1300 224 636
Number 12: Try and have fun.
Whether we’re on your own, spending time with the family we were assigned or the one we chose, today is a day to let our hair down and have some fun.
Remember, fun is contextual and can mean many things, whether it’s going for a walk in the park, watching a movie with your cat or spending time with friends and family in a large group it’s important to do what makes us feel happy and gives us meaning.
For us, at Being that means ensuring all people with lived/living experience of mental health issues or distress are heard and respected by decision makers, service providers, and the community.
Our vision is for all people with a lived/living experience of mental health issues to participate as full citizens in the communities they choose.
From us at Being, we wish everyone a mentally happy and healthy holiday.