Woman doing yoga to look after her mental health at christmas

Taking care of your mental health this festive season

Christmas is a joyous time of the year, but that doesn’t mean things like stress, depression and anxiety disappear. In fact, they often intensify.

No matter how organised you are, the holidays are demanding and mental health at Christmas can often take a hit. From buying presents in busy shops, to scrambling about supermarkets for last minute ingredients, Christmas can be taxing.

It’s important that you watch your mental health this festive season. It’s also important to keep an eye on your friends and family.

This article will explore some of the ways you can look after your mental health, and your family’s mental health at Christmas.

Live in the moment

Make sure that you live in the moment and enjoy the here and now. Christmas will come and go, as it always does. Moments can last forever in your memories.

It can be easy to wish away the day, and thinking too much about having the perfect day can add to the stress and anxiety in the build-up.

Keep in mind that things might go wrong, and it’s alright if they do. Remember what it’s all about: spending time with your friends and family.

Remember, everything in moderation

Eating and drinking in moderation is easier said than done. This is especially true during the festive season, which is synonymous with indulging in all things delicious.

However, eating and drinking a sensible amount can support positive mental health. Remember, things like alcohol can act as a depressant.

Meanwhile, eating too much sugary food can leave you feeling lethargic and low, which can exasperate any feelings of sadness you already have.

It’s worth keeping an eye out for symptoms of eating disorders. These can cause unhealthy eating habits to develop and may start as an obsession with food, body weight or body shape. Common signs of an eating disorder include restrictive eating, compulsive eating, or irregular eating patterns.

Be open with your feelings

Feeling stressed or anxious about what’s to come? Don’t be shy. Talk to someone. Getting it off your chest can do you the world of good.

Letting negative feelings and concerns fester can be detrimental to your mental health, so find someone you trust and open up.

Even just getting things off your chest can make a difference, but the person might even point you in the right direction to find a longer term solution.

Be kind to others

Everyone knows how stressful the festive season can get, so try your best to stay calm and be kind to others – after all, we’re all in the same boat.

This is especially important when you’re interacting with retail and hospitality workers, who are trying their best during their busiest time of the year.

Remember, it feels nice to be nice. It doesn’t take much effort to be kind, it makes the person you’re speaking with feel good, and you’re sure to come away feeling good about yourself.

Help others

Similar to the above point, helping others is especially important during the Christmas period, and it can make a huge difference.

If you’re lucky enough to get away with not hosting Christmas at your home, help whoever is. This can be preparing food or setting up the table for the big day.

It will help ease the pressure and stress they’re under, and they’ll likely repay the favour when the time comes for you to host people.

Another way to help others is by volunteering. Help ease the strains placed on your local foodbank, aged care facility or homeless charity by helping out any way you can.

Stay active

Exercise is always good for your mental health, and just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean you can’t get out and about.

Research shows that people who exercise regularly have better mental health and emotional wellbeing and lower rates of mental illness.

Even if you’re busy, try and take some time to get out of the house. Need to post Christmas cards? Why not walk to the post box a little further away.

Plan ahead

Planning ahead is always a good idea. At Christmas, it’s a must. Things can quickly get out of hand, which can lead to stress and anxiety.

You don’t have to spend hours developing a thesis, but jotting down a few reminders and important dates or times can go a long way.

Even setting yourself some reminders for traditional Christmas activities can save you time and hassle as the big day approaches.

Delegate tasks

Making sure you delegate tasks in the build up to Christmas can also go a long way to decreasing your stress and anxiety levels.

If you’re cooking Christmas dinner for the whole family, why not ask someone to bring the vegetables and another to bring a dessert.

By spreading tasks across multiple people, you’re spreading the stress and challenges that come with Christmas, making sure everyone enjoys the day.

Recognise your signs

Everybody reacts differently to stress, anxiety and a host of other mental health conditions. Making sure you know your signs can help stop you feeling like things are spiralling out of your control.

Keep an eye out for physical signs – things like sweating, increased heartrate and rapid breathing – because these are often the most telling.

If you can take note of some of the early signs, you stand a good chance of picking up when something isn’t quite right and taking action early.

Curious what to look out for? Check out our mental health resources to see what warning signs you should be looking out for.

Avoid situations that cause you stress

Christmas often presents us with situations we’d rather avoid. We often feel like we have to just deal with these situations, but that’s not the case.

If you know a situation is going to make you feel stressed, anxious, worried or angry, try to avoid it. There are ways to get around it.

Hate setting the table for Christmas? Why not ask your partner or kids to help out. Dread going to the shops? Why not order your gifts online.

Budget, budget, budget

Financial stress is a real thing. Each year, people get themselves worked up over the cost of Christmas, which can wreak havoc on their mental health as well as their bank balance.

Try to remember that Christmas isn’t all about presents and lavish spending. It’s about spending time with loved ones and taking a break from work or every day stressors.

Wherever you can, try to set a budget, and don’t overstretch yourself. Stick to a defined limit for presents, food and drink and anything else you have planned.

Get some shut eye

Christmas and New Year are full of late nights spent with family and friends, but try to make sure you’re getting enough sleep, ideally between 7-9 hours a night. At the very least, make sure you’re having a nap wherever you can.

Not only will this boost your energy levels, but it will also make sure you’re in tip top shape and ready to face the challenges that Christmas throws at you.

Looking after mental health at Christmas – who to call for urgent support

If there’s an immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please call 000.

If you need someone to talk with now, call:

Need to talk to someone?

Sometimes, the best way to handle stress, anxiety, or other mental health challenges is to talk to someone who understands. With 80+ practitioners, Access Psych can support you with psychology, counselling, and therapy services throughout Australia. Get in touch with one of our registered or provisional psychologists in the leadup to or aftermath of the festive season.

Alternatively, if you have any questions about Access Psych and what else we can do for you, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.

When you’re ready, you can book an appointment online, speak to one of our friendly team on 1800 277 924 or email info@accesspsych.com.au.

The information provided in this document is general in nature and is intended to be used for information purposes only. While we have tried to ensure the accuracy of the information published, no guarantee can be given that the information is free from error or omission or that it is accurate, current or complete.

The information published is not, and should not be relied on as, health or treatment advice. The diagnosis and treatment of any mental illness requires the attention of a physician or other properly qualified mental health professional. If you are seeking diagnosis or treatment of any other mental illness, you should consult a physician or mental health professional. You should not delay in seeking, or disregard, professional health advice because of something you have read in this document.