8 WAYS TO MANAGE YOUR STRESS DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON
From Christmas to New Year Eve, the end of year break is the one of the busiest times of the year. For some people, the end of year season is a break filled with reconnection with loved ones, gift-giving, travelling, and so much more. While the holidays can be a time filled with joy, laughter, and love, they can be quite stressful for some. There is often an expectation to feel joyful around the holiday period, but not everyone does. For others, it is a time when feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, or social isolation increase.
Why do I get more anxiety around the holidays?
Without even recognising it, the holiday can weigh heavily on many people. There are many factors that may affect your mental health over the holiday season, and these may include:
- The stress associated with planning holiday parties, dinners, or get-togethers
- The overwhelm associated with packed calendars and long to-do lists
- Overspending on gifts, food, and travel arrangements
- Spending the holidays alone or away from your loved ones
- The high expectations you may have trying to throw the perfect party or picking the perfect gift
- Not being able to afford gifts for your loved ones
- Feeling as though you can’t live up to others’ expectations
So how can we make sure we’re not held down by our feelings of anxiety and can experience joy with the rest of our families and friends?
8 tips to manage your stress
1. Take steps to stay safe
Generally, it’s always best to plan according to the relevant community and government guidelines, but most of all, you need to do what’ll make you feel the most comfortable.
2. Acknowledge your feelings
If you’re feeling distraught about not being with loved ones or feeling isolated, give yourself permission to feel these feelings. It’s OK to take time to sit with and express your feelings.
3. Reflect on what you’re grateful for
The end of year is a good time to reflect on the things that made you happy. Journaling is one way to do this: write a gratitude list and verbally thank people you’re grateful to. After all, gratitude has been shown to improve mental health.
4. Stick to a budget
Before you do your gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend, then do your best to stick to it. These gift alternatives might help reduce financial stress:
- Donate to a charity in someone’s name
- Give homemade gifts
- Start a family gift exchange
5. Plan ahead
Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, connecting with friends and other activities. Consider whether you can shop online for any of your items. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list.
6. Do the things you enjoy, in moderation
Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all period where you abandon your healthy habits. Overindulgence may add to pre-existing distress and guilt. Try these suggestions:
- Eat healthy meals
- Get plenty of sleep
- Include regular physical activity in your daily routine
- Try deep-breathing exercises, meditation or yoga
- Avoid excessive nicotine, alcohol and drug use
7. Take a breather
Take time out for yourself. Spending 20 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Some things you could do during this time may include:
- Finding a free moment to go for a walk or stretch
- Listening to soothing music
- Reading a book
8. Seek professional help if you need it
Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself still feeling low or anxious during this time. If these feelings last, talk to your doctor or contact our friendly team of psychologists at Mind Matters to discuss how we can better support you.
Additional support options over the holidays
There are also places you can find mental health support, even on Christmas Day or New Years which can be a particularly difficult day. The following mental health services operate 24/7 over the holiday season:
- SANE Australia Online Forums
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- Suicide Call Back Line: 1800 659 467
- BeyondBlue: 1300 224 636
- Mensline: 1300 789 978
- KidsHelpline: 1800 551 800
- 1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732