10 tips for surviving the festive season

The festive season can be a wonderful time of the year – but it can be a very stressful time too.

December brings endless parties and gatherings, late nights, busy weekends, indulgent food and a few too many glasses of wine or beer (or sometimes both!). Not to mention the stress and financial strain of spending hours wandering around artificially lit shopping centres finding the ‘perfect present’ for everyone you know.

At work, does your to-do list suddenly seem insurmountable as people around you handball work your way? It’s likely you are long overdue for some R&R and holiday time too.

If you have kids you are probably juggling the craziness of the festive season alongside all that comes with the end of school year, and planning (perhaps even dreading?) keeping everyone sane and entertained during the holidays.

How can you stay sane this Christmas?

It’s not hard to understand why a lot of people feel tremendously overwhelmed at this this time of year. Neither is it surprising that the lead up to Christmas is one of the busiest times for our clinical psychology practice and many others.

There are some things you can do to lighten your load and maintain your mental health – making it a much more enjoyable time for you and those around you.

1. Get planning and write, write, write

One of the most important techniques I use in therapy is ‘externalisation’. This basically means getting things out of your head and taking a little bit of pressure off your brain. Research on working memory suggests that our brain can only retain about seven pieces of information before it starts to get overloaded – so give it a break! Write down what you have to do and when you’re going to do it so that you’re not relying on your brain to hold all the information. Externalisation also helps you to stop worrying about forget something you have to do.

2. Avoid the shopping centres (and IKEA!) during peak times

Although it is easier said than done, try and do your Christmas shopping when the shops are quiet. Walking around with a trolley full of gifts will be much easier when you’re not battling hundreds of other people.

3. Avoid shopping with kids

Do whatever you can to make your shopping experience easier. Can you leave the kids with a friend or organise kid swaps so you can both shop in peace?

4. Delegate or ask for help

Hosting a party? If you can, ask your family or friends to bring a dish or to come over an hour earlier to help you set up. You don’t need to do everything yourself (really, you don’t).

5. Get outside

Make sure you take time (even 10 minutes will help) to soak in the sunshine and get some fresh air. Try doing this mindfully, really focusing on the environment around you.

6. Get grounded

Grounding exercises can be great for getting out of your head. When you find yourself feeling stressed or getting worked up try this grounding technique:

Take a few controlled breaths (breathe in for 6 seconds, hold your breath for two seconds, and then breath out for 4 seconds). Then name five things you can see, smell, taste, touch, and hear. This is a great way of invoking all of your senses.

7. Say no

Yes, you can.

8. Take ‘me’ time

One of my favourite analogies to use with clients is the ‘oxygen mask’. If you’ve ever been on a plane you will be familiar with the pre-flight safety briefing that starts: “in case of emergency, an oxygen mask will drop from above”. Do you remember what they announce next? They advise you to “place your mask on yourself before helping others”. Just as on a plane, you are of no use to anyone else when you are depleted. So make sure you take some time out to take care of yourself this Christmas.

9.  Limit your alcohol intake

Alcohol is a depressant which means it can make you feel down. It’s also bad for sleep. Research shows that although alcohol might make it easier to initially fall asleep, your sleep quality for the night is severely impaired so you wake up the next day feeling tired and drained. So when you reach for that bottle of wine or 6-pack to ‘help you relax’ for the third night in a row – think again! It’s more likely to make you feel worse.

10. Get some sleep

Late nights are common around this time of year, so it’s really important to get enough sleep when you can. If you know you have a busy weekend coming up, try going to bed a bit earlier in the lead up so you’re well rested.

If you or someone you know is having a hard time or struggling to cope this Christmas, reach out to one of our experienced clinical psychologists.

Written by Dr Michelle Jongenelis, Clinical Psychologist
To book an appointment with Michelle contact our friendly client relationship team on 6143 4499.

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