While Christmas can be a time of great joy and fun, for many people it can also be a time of immense stress. There may be financial strain, family pressure, feelings of loneliness or sheer exhaustion from a challenging year.
According to Better Health Victoria, anxiety and depression are common during the festive season. They recommend the following tips for managing stress at this time of year.
* Don’t expect miracles. If you and certain family members fight all year long, chances are they will be tension at Christmas gatherings.
* Use relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or focusing on your breath to cope with anxiety or tension.
* People under stress tend to ‘self-medicate’ with alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs. Try to remember that drugs can’t solve problems or alleviate stress in the long term.
* Get enough sleep.
* Keep moving. Keeping up your regular exercise routine can give you the fitness and stamina to make it through the demands of the festive season.
In the past week I’ve learnt of two devastating suicides. A father of three young kids from my son’s school, and a friend’s 62-year-old father both took their own life. According to crisis support and suicide prevention organization, Lifeline, suicide remains the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15-44, and men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women. Approximately six people die by suicide in Australia every day and another 180 people attempt suicide. Lifeline offers the following advice for how you can help prevent suicide.
Engage – with those around you. Ask how they are? If you notice someone is going through a stressful time or experiencing changes to routine life, ask how they are coping.
Listen – to those you engage with, in particular to those ‘doing it tough.’ Take the time to really hear and understand how they are feeling.
Support – tell them you’re concerned and you are there to talk and listen. This can open the lines of communication and provide that person with some comfort at a time when they may feel very alone.
Refer – onto appropriate support services. If friends or family are not coping with life, suggest that they get help – their local GP can be a good starting point. If the person says they are thinking about suicide, let them know that you are concerned for them and refer them to Lifeline 13 11 14.
If life is in danger do not hesitate to contact emergency services on 000. For further information about how to support people in crisis and how to ask if someone is thinking about suicide please visit http://www.lifeline.org.au/Get-Help
The festive season doesn’t have to be picture perfect. You don’t have to break the bank buying gifts, catch up with everyone you know or promise things that are too stressful to deliver. What’s more important is that you survive the silly season safe and sound. If you need help, ask for it. If it’s too much, say no. Gift yourself with a relaxing, healthy and content Christmas and arrive at 2014 feeling ready to take on another year. Enjoy.