We all know the drill for taking care of our physical health over the holiday season – avoid over-indulging, go for plenty of salads and vegies, keep moving, remember to sleep.
But what about looking after your mental health at what can be an intense and stressful time of year?
One in five Australian men are likely to experience anxiety and one in eight experience depression. And, while there’s plenty of goodwill during the Christmas season, it’s also a high-risk time when family relationships face extra pressure and financial burdens peak.
Here’s a list of top tips from Bolton Clarke to help you look after your mental health over the holidays.
Take care of you
Look after yourself physically and mentally. The simplest things can have a significant impact, such as going for a run or a walk – not only does getting out in the fresh air help you counter the impact of all that holiday food, it also provides space for reflection and gives you much-needed personal space.
Take care of others
Giving to a charity at Christmas time or volunteering for a charity has great personal benefit for the giver by helping to shift your focus and put your concerns in perspective.
Get your finances in order
If finances are a concern, budget for the Christmas period. Don’t feel you have to overspend and put yourself under financial stress. If circumstances have led you to incur significant debt or financial stress, see a financial counsellor who can give you useful support and advice.
Avoid the hype
Don’t get caught up in the commercial hype of Christmas. If you enjoy going to the beach and having a BBQ on Christmas Day, do it. Do what you enjoy, not what you think you should be doing.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s the cost of a gift that counts. Think of meaningful gifts for others – consider giving the gift of your time instead of an object, such as going to the movies, cheese making, massage or beer making.
Stay connected with people
It’s important not to isolate yourself. You can connect with others via social media, phone, Skype – and in person. Make plans to catch up with friends. Networking services that point you to offline meet-ups based around particular interests are one useful avenue to connect with others, make new friends or try new experiences.
Have realistic expectations about family gatherings
There’s a lot of focus on family at Christmas, and it’s a time when any latent tensions can bubble to the surface, particularly when people who don’t see each other very often come together and strained relationships are tested. Be realistic about what you can expect so you can avoid arguments.
Make plans and goals for next year
Think about what you want to achieve and do. Things are more likely to happen if you make a plan.
Think about what you are grateful for
Too often we focus on what we don’t have instead of what we do have. Make a mental (or physical) list of what you’re grateful for, and refer to it when you need a reality check.
Think about coaching
Just as a personal trainer can support your Christmas goals, you can access coaching that supports you with practical skills to tackle anxiety. The NewAccess program (developed by beyondblue) is free, flexible (delivered in person or by phone/Skype) and no referral is needed.
Remember, if you need urgent assistance phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.