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Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy and happiness, but for many it’s the most difficult time of the year. Those experiencing mental illness can often find this time of year harder to bear.
Often, things like family tensions, excessive alcohol consumption, poor nutrition, loneliness, isolation, and money worries, can come to the fore and make people feel worse at Christmas. When just functioning is a struggle, the pressure to attend parties and catch up with family and friends can be hard.
So in the spirit of the 12 Days of Christmas, here are the 12 Tips for a Mentally Healthy Christmas:
1. Stick to your budget
Planning ahead and sticking to your budget will ease the financial stress at Christmas, and alleviate financial issues in the New Year. If you have a large circle of friends and family, the list of gifts to buy seems endless, perhaps try a Secret Santa, or set a limit on the price to be spent on each gift.
2. Set boundaries
Make plans and set boundaries, whether this is on the money you spend, the tasks you take on, or the parties you attend – whatever helps reduce the stress you face during this silly season.
3. Don’t shop til you drop!
Avoid the crowds and the stress of finding a car park! Try shopping online, or schedule your shopping when it will be less busy – and ALWAYS stick to your shopping list!
4. Avoid the pressure cooker!
Cooking can be stressful enough, let alone for large numbers of family and friends when you really want to impress. Remember that you don’t need to be a masterchef! Delegate guests to help you prepare lunch or dinner, or ask them to bring a plate which also helps you share the expense and hard work.
5. Manage your expectations
Let’s face it, Christmas in real life is nothing like you see in the movies! Christmas tends to shine a light on the stresses and cracks that already exist in relationships. So try and accept this, and be mindful of the triggers that can cause arguments or tension. Relaxation techniques can also be beneficial for you to help manage your feelings and anxiety.
6. Everything in moderation
Yes it’s the season to be jolly, but overdoing it, especially with alcohol, can negatively impact on your health and wellbeing to leave a lasting hangover. Try to choose fresh fruit and vegetables wherever you can, and limit the amount of alcohol you consume over the festive period.
7. Get out and about
Keeping up your regular exercise routine – or taking advantage of your holiday time to enjoy our great weather and spectacular Gold Coast scenery – will help boost your serotonin levels and reduce stress. Plus it helps to walk off the calories if you did enjoy that second mince pie!
8. Don’t overdo it
Lack of sleep, or doing too much, can often be a trigger for anxiety and depression. So try and get a good night’s sleep, and schedule some ‘me time’ for yourself during the holiday period. Be kind to yourself.
9. Don’t be a stranger
Don’t isolate yourself from the people who care about you, even if the last thing you feel like doing is socialising.
Some people will be ‘orphaned’ over the Christmas period, for many reasons. If you think you’re going to be alone at Christmas, make it a priority to reach out to your friends and family by phone, email or social media. There are many awesome organisations on the Gold Coast who are hosting lunch events on Christmas Day, which you’re very welcome to enjoy as a guest or as a volunteer. Check out our Facebook page to find an event near you.
10. Look back – and look forward
The end of a year can bring mixed emotions, particularly if you’ve experienced difficult or disappointing times. If this does cause you distress, try to focus on the positive outcomes of the past 12 months, and view the new year as a fresh start and chance to make the changes you desire.
11. Pay it forward
Giving to others – whether this is looking out for a neighbour on their own, volunteering, or a random act of kindness – is a known way to improve your mental health, and will lift spirits especially at this time of year.
12. You’re not alone
It’s important to remember that there are many, many support organisations who are still there for you over the holiday period. Check in with your own support services, and also make a note of the ones below, so you can make contact if needed:
Beyondblue 1300 22 46 36
Lifeline 13 11 14
Gold Coast Health 1300 64 22 55
In an emergency, please call 000.
Keep it real this Christmas. It’s only the Kardashians who will experience Christmas like the Kardashians!
For other Gold Coast events and activities visit the Gold Coast Primary Health Network’s website: HealthyGC.com.au