The holiday season is often seen as a time of celebration and joy, but for many people, the festivities bring with them a lot of emotional baggage. It’s not uncommon for people to feel lonely at Christmas or overwhelmed by stress.
“For those who are struggling financially, it can be hard to afford things like presents and food. This is particularly true for Christmas this year and it can make the Christmas holiday feel stressful, overwhelming and even demoralising,” explains Dr Myers. “It can also be difficult to enjoy the festivities when you are feeling so stressed out, negative or guilt-ridden.”
Others may find themselves dealing with the loss of a loved one, or struggling with substance use or mental health issues.
To help you get through the holidays, Dr Myers shares her top tips:
How to get through the holidays, according to a psychiatrist
1. Reach out to people in need. Many people will find themselves alone these holidays. Dr Myers recommends reaching out to your community to get involved with volunteering. “Helping others is often the best way to lift your own spirit and enhance gratitude.”
2. Find fun within a budget. “There are plenty of ways to enjoy the holidays without spending a lot of money,” says Dr Myers. “You can visit friends or family, picnic in the park, watch holiday movies, bake simple treats or read Christmas stories. Get creative with decorations and use this as family time!”
3. Monitor health and substances. “The holidays can be a time when people overindulge in food, alcohol, and drugs,” explains Dr Myers. “If you’re struggling with any of these substances, be sure to monitor your intake and seek help if needed. Enlist a friend or family member to keep an eye out if you might lose control! Remember to stay compliant with your regular medications. ”
4. Practice self-care. With many of us focussing on buying presents or entertaining friends and family, it can be easy to forget about yourself. “Relax in a bathtub, read your favourite book, go for a walk, or listen to music. If you are not one for all the Christmas festivities, see this time as a wonderful opportunity to catch up on tasks, organise your home or simply rest!”
5. Stick to a routine. While some find it nice to switch off the alarm and make no plan, other people find it helpful to keep a routine during the busy holidays. “This can help reduce stress and make the season more enjoyable,” says Dr Myers.
6. Connect online. If you’re separated from your loved ones, a simple way to feel connected is by jumping online. “Do a video call with friends or loved ones who live far away or jump online to join forums and chat groups.”
Help when you need it
If you do need to talk, there are a number of helplines and services available during the holidays.
In New Zealand, you can text 1737 to talk with a trained counsellor for free or contact the Depression and Anxiety Helpline on 0800 111 757 or free text 4202.
In Australia, you can call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or visit their website to chat over the web.