So, this is Christmas…or at least the holiday season…isn’t it?

Dec 9, 2021

by Carey Little 
Clinical Psychologist – The Self Centre

No matter who you are, or your religious denomination or lack thereof, the Christmas season takes over in December in ways both wonderful and exhausting. It’s a time of gift giving and showing appreciation of others, sharing food and fun with family and friends, and in Australia, the kick start to a summer break. In Australia, it should mean long days of rejuvenating and refreshing sunshine and holidays as much of the country shuts down. Going away or at least not going to work, promotes creativity and motivation and builds up our reserves to move forward into the new year ahead. Did you know, just three days of holiday has been found to reduce anxiety and create a better mood?  Funny how, at this time of year, it does not always feel that way. Not the least this year after lockdowns and restrictions and with La Nina bearing her wet and tumultuous weather on us! 

What most of us forget when we think of festivities and holidays is that it is also one of the busiest times of year, spending time with more people than usual, entertaining, or going out on successive days means less time to refresh. And there can be many different reactions to the holiday season for all sorts of reasons. Coping through this part of the year can feel very difficult and expectations versus realities – our own and that of others – can raise anxiety and drop mood. Even in the happiest of family or friend groups this is the time of year when frustration, sadness, fatigue, tension, loss, and loneliness can peak. Lots of worry accompanies this time of year; what gifts for whom? What food for whom and when? Who will get on with who? How much will it cost? Where shall we vacation? What shall I pack? I am sure you can add several your own worries to this list.  

Here are some tips to help make it more Hallmark than Hellmark! 

  1. Make sure to Really RelaxPractice relaxation; make time for yourself – at least 10 mins here and there, to stop and mediate or deep breath or read two pages of a book or knit two rows. Schedule this time, if only by telling everyone in advance to expect you to disappear between laying the table and basting the roast, making a salad, and checking there are enough beach towels… you get what I mean. If not, you may find yourself basting the beach towels and packing the roast in the beach bag…! 
  2. Routine for the Important thingsKeep a regular eat, sleep and exercise cycle as this is the best way to stay organised and your body and brain cope better when circadian rhythms are routine. It’s hard to maintain this one through the holidays but, getting up at the same time as you usually do (or as close as possible!) and going to bed at the same time as usual (or as close as possible as often as possible!) will make a big difference. And don’t forget exercise, but you are on holidays so maybe swap the treadmill for a bush walk and the weights for an outdoor or beach yoga session, throwing the frisbee or going ice skating. (Personally, I find this is the hardest one to maintain through my summer break but I promise to do my best!) 
  3. Promote your own mood: it’s easy in the festive season and through the holidays to constantly put the needs of others first. It’s part of the spirit of things to make sure social activities and day-to-day life is fun and carefree. The effort of doing so can be extremely draining and mood lowering. Know what things make you happy and relaxed and ensure that you include them in your every day. Meeting your own feelings, needs and wants will allow you the energy and enthusiasm to be with others and help them have their best time too. Make sure you set aside some days for yourself across the break … remember, put the oxygen mask on yourself first before assisting others!
  4. Create a spending limit: While everyone enjoys a little indulgence either as part of the festive celebrations or to make the holiday a little special, it can be hard on the budget, which in turn creates unwanted stress. Mr Visa and Mrs Mastercard may love you for it, however sticking to what you can afford, reducing the cost or size and frequency of gifts and treats will not ruin summer, but will keep the stress levels down. 
  5. Be Kind to Everyone: As we cannot control the behaviours of others at the best of times, let alone through the stresses of the festive season and holidays. Rather than becoming irritated or fused with a frustration, be kind, respectful, forgiving and empathetic. Think of them as a rather bothersome client. It’s not about agreeing with them or giving in to them but, preserving your own mental equilibrium by accepting you cannot change anything but your response and your mood.  

Take time out to relax and refresh. Remember that if you are feeling overwhelmed or low, Lifeline 13 11 14 and other services are a phone call (13 11 14) or chat click away.  And in January the The Self Centre Team will be back to help kick start you into your new year.

Happy Relaxing!