The Christmas holidays edition
I can’t quite believe that I’m writing this week’s blog. I feel like my body is still somewhere in about May of this year and the rest of me is still reeling from the topsy-turvy second year of the pandemic, lockdowns, vaccines, and restrictions. It’s been quite a year and I know that there has been more than the usual amount of stress for us all to navigate in 2021, especially coming off the back of an already problematic 2020.
I am very aware that Christmas isn’t universally celebrated, nor is it always a time of peace and joy and the stuff of Christmas movies. This year, more than possibly any other, there are probably many people feeling deeply conflicted about the upcoming holiday period. And we know that mental health challenges don’t go on holiday, in fact there’s so much happening over the holiday period that likely exacerbates stress, and therefore causes our mental health to suffer even more. So this week is about getting our ducks organized a little bit, so that we feel as well-resourced as possible going into the festive period.
Thea’s mental health advent calendar:
(Otherwise known as my top 25 mental health considerations for the Christmas period)
- Delegate Christmas jobs and ask for help – radical thought here, but it’s ok to say ‘no’ or share the mental load of what is involved in making Christmas happen in your household
- Make a Christmas budget (and stick to it) – because honestly it’s an expensive business and no one’s mental health improves when we’re broke
- Only do the things that really matter to you – if you’re dreading going to something, it’s a fair indication that you really don’t want to go. Say ‘yes’ to the things that matter to you, and don’t carry guilt for the others
- Know your stress signs and do the things that help settle your nervous system – whether it’s breathwork, meditation or moving your body, stick to the things you know help you
- Stay active – it’s easy to get out of routine over the holiday period but sometimes it’s at this time we need to get out of our heads the most.
- Have a safety plan (or tweak your existing one for the holidays) – who can you ask for help, or what resources are available where you are over the holiday (see list below for ideas)
- Journal your stress – especially handy if you aren’t going to be able to have your regular therapy sessions over the holidays. What would your therapist say? Getting the words out of your head and down on paper can really help
- Stay connected – even if you aren’t around your usual support people, arrange times to check in, even if it’s over text
- Leave comparisons to others alone – so your house doesn’t look like House and Gardens magazine, nor as flashy as your neighbours – it really doesn’t matter. And just because someone else’s world looks picture-perfect, reality is we all have our own struggles.
- Set boundaries (and stick to them) – they’re not selfish and they help us avoid feeling taken for granted or resentful
- Self-care still counts at Christmas – arguably, it’s even more important
- Everything in moderation – overindulging in food and / or alcohol might feel like the ‘done thing’ but it’s more likely to lead to negative emotions like guilt afterwards and so is often counter-intuitive
- Have realistic expectations of friends and family – we’ve all had a time of it these last two years, and people will have all found their own ways of making sense of it
- Release pressure on yourself – how can you keep things simple this year? How can you practice self-compassion?
- Get involved with your local community – giving back others is a great way of improving your mental health, and it provides resources for people who are doing it tough in other ways
- Pace yourself – make sure there’s wriggle-room in your schedule and take some downtime if you need it
- Practice gratitude – when it feels like there is so much at stake it’s easy to focus on the negatives. Ask yourself every day this holiday time, “what three things went well for me today?
- Drink alcohol in moderation – it often feels like a good idea at the time, but we know that alcohol is a mood depressant so often ends up having far more negative consequences
- Get enough sleep – especially after this year, find time in amongst the ‘busy’ to get adequate rest and quality sleep
- Plan healthy meals in amongst all the celebratory food – just to even up the balance and ensure that you’re eating plenty of fresh fruit and veggies which are naturally mood-boosting, and they help keep your gut happy!
- Find time to relax – watch the cricket, read a book, have a nanna-nap…it’s a holiday after all!
- Everything won’t be perfect – messy can also be really wonderful!
- You aren’t alone – lots of people find this time of year hard and there are people available to support you (see below)
- It’s ok to say ‘no’ to some of the things – it doesn’t make you a weak, awful human to put your own needs first. There’s no guilt or shame in letting people know that you’re taking it easier on yourself this year
- Let someone know if you’re struggling
Crisis support options:
I recognise that Christmas can be a really challenging time for many people so if you find yourself in a crisis situation, please reach out to one of the following services:
- Beyond Blue – 1300 22 46 36
- Lifeline – 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline – 1800 55 18 00
- Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
- MensLine – 1300 78 99 78
- QLife – 1800 184 527
- Find your local CAT Team (Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team) https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/crisis-management
The Thea Baker Wellbeing team are all looking forward to some down-time over the Christmas period. Alicia and our Administration Team will be on leave from 23rd December – 4th January so we will not be taking calls during that time. The clinicians and I are all taking leave at some point between 22nd December – 5th January.
Wishing you all a very peaceful holiday season, however you may celebrate it.
If you would like some support before the Christmas-crazy really sets in, we have a team of therapists at Thea Baker Wellbeing – please reach out to us at: email@example.com / 03 9077 8194.