High expectations, financial pressures, work deadlines – it’s peak silly season and for many of us, anxiety levels are running high.
But December can be a time of joy. Really.
Experts share their top tips for surviving and enjoying the holidays:
1. Ask yourself: Who do I want to be?
Psychologist Claudette Foley says she sees a lot of people at this time of year who are anxious about family reunions and work events.
“Imagine it’s January and you’re looking back on the whole Christmas period,” she says. “Ask yourself, who would I like to have been through that time?”
2. Pause and reflect
Maybe a relative is getting on your nerves, or dinner plans aren’t going exactly how you planned.
“Know you have a choice at that moment of anger to press pause and respond differently,” Foley says.
“Go help in the kitchen, play with the kids, or talk to someone else.”
3. Step out of autopilot
Free yourself from destructive patterns and be proactive in difficult situations.
“Don’t just sit there and fall into the same patterns,” Foley says.
4. Try meditation
Take 20 minutes a day to meditate, says Sydney Buddhist Centre Chair Samacitta.
“It’s a way of stepping back, getting off the merry-go-round and finding some perspective. It will make a huge difference to the rest of the day.”
If you’re new to meditation try this free course with Headspace.
5. Remember what you like about it/them
Don’t allow negative thoughts and dread take over, and “make room for feelings outside anxiety,” Foley says.
6. Have courage
“These festivities are meant to be helpful by marking the turning of the year and coming together,” Samacitta says.
“If you’re stressed, tell family members. It’s more loving to be real with people.”
Foley says this is especially important in blended family situations, and “sometimes you need a courageous conversation”.
7. Drink less alcohol, eat and sleep well
“Alcohol fuels anxiety and obscures judgment,” Foley says.
“Ask yourself, are you the best version of yourself after two or three drinks and some fatty food with work colleagues, or are you not?”
Rehydrate with lots of water and squeeze in some exercise, even if it’s a brisk walk, whenever you can.
8. Spend wisely
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission says the average credit card debt after the holiday season is $1666, which can take months to pay off for some people.
Talk with family members about alternative gift-giving solutions, such as limiting presents to children only, making gifts or DIY vouchers, or setting dollar limits.
9. It’s OK to say no
Beyond Blue clinical adviser Dr Stephen Carbone advises people to plan wisely in this busy time of year.
“It’s OK to look after yourself and say no to some things, to reduce stress and keep things enjoyable,” he says.
10. Reach out
Carbone says while some feel overwhelmed with social engagements at Christmas, others are lonely.
Beyond Blue has created a dedicated online forum thread for support, company and advice on surviving the holiday season.
Need to talk to someone?
Beyond Blue mental health professionals are available 24/7 through a support service by calling 1300 22 4636.
Or visit beyondblue.org.au/get-support for online chat (3pm-midnight AEDST) or email responses (within 24 hours).