For some people, the festive season is a happy and joyous time to connect with and enjoy the company of family and friends. However, for many it can also be a time of stress when unhelpful patterns of behavior are triggered and coping goes out the window.

It is often a hectic time of year, with too many hours spent navigating shopping centres and traffic, pressure to complete deadlines in preparation for time off, and managing the juggle of various end of year social functions, the most hazardous of which can be the work Christmas party (which probably deserves a whole separate coping guide). Overindulgence with spending, eating and drinking can also be an issue.

Likewise, this is a time where we can overdose on togetherness with extended family, where it’s challenging to balance family and alone time, and where families can easily slip into their old roles or dynamics. Yet for others this time of year can also be very lonely and isolating.

The upshot is that you can predict and prepare for this kind of stress, to either avoid it or reduce its negative impact. Here are some tips to help you get through any stress or anxiety you may experience this holiday season.

Prioritise and Be Present

Be selective about the activities and traditions that you commit to, and choose to devote time and energy to what’s important and meaningful to you rather than saying yes to everything out of a sense of obligation. Focus on what you are doing in the present moment and let go of the mental list making or planning.

Balance Celebration with Moderation

A deprivation approach to eating and drinking is typically unhelpful. Likewise a ‘’deal with it in January” attitude is not ideal. This is a time when mindfulness can be beneficial, to really experience the pleasures of good food, as well as mindful connection with the body’s physical cues to hunger and satiety. Considering the short-term gratification of overindulgence versus the longer-term consequences can also be useful.

Be An Adult

Prior to potentially challenging family events, make a commitment to yourself that you will act in an adult way that aligns with your values and which you can be proud of. Predict what is likely to push your buttons and make an “if then” plan (e.g. If mum says…. then I will….”).

Consider ways to limit or avoid time with anyone who is likely to be really toxic. Your mental wellbeing trumps any family obligations.

Make ‘Me Time’

Find time to give to yourself and refill your tank, by having a holiday or ‘staycation’, or even giving yourself time to catch up on your favorite books or movies.

Reach Out

If you’re feeling lonely or down, don’t withdraw or isolate yourself. Contact a friend or health service, and ask for what you need. Don’t hesitate to contact us at MyLife Psychologists.

Written by Tal Schlosser, Clinical Psychologist