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Samantha Dhu, qualified Counsellor and Psychotherapist, shares knowledge and tips to help you live a happier life in her blog. If you’re looking for compassionate, knowledgeable therapy in Perth or online, come and meet Sam. 

3 Tips for Taking Care of Yourself Over the Festive Season

samantha dhu is a counsellor and Cognitive behavioural therapist in Perth and Fremantle

The silly season is upon us once again! This time of the year can be such a mixed bag. Sometimes no matter how hard we work to create a Christmas free of stress and conflict, the pressure and tension can get the better of us.

We often place such high expectations and pressure on ourselves to have the “perfect” Christmas. Often these expectations are in conflict with the reality of complex family dynamics and our financial resources.

Stress is when our demands exceed our resources.

During the festive season the demands of life often increase (shopping, social / family / work commitments, spending income) All of these things can be enjoyable but when we are overloaded with these commitments, they often become stressful rather than enjoyable.

We also tend to drop resources such as exercise, healthy eating and self-care the busier we get during the festive season.

If you’ve lost someone you love or had a relationship end, Christmas can be a sad and lonely time. If you’re struggling with mental health issues, this time of year can be particularly upsetting. 

Whilst it’s always important to take care of yourself, it is particularly important at this time of the year. Here are 3 Tips for you to take care of yourself this festive season.

1 | Get Yourself A Compassionate Mindset

Our minds are meaning making machines. We have over 50’000 thoughts a day, most of them happen without awareness but our thoughts impact how we feel and what we choose to do. There are often stories we tell ourselves about our self/others/the world that have a huge impact on our emotions.

This is why it’s so important to pay attention to the way you think/talk to yourself during times of stress. To help become more aware of your thoughts you might like to start writing down or observing your thoughts. Do they sound kind or are they mostly mean?

Ask yourself Is this thought true or is there any evidence for it?  (Because our brains tell us a whole heap of rubbish sometimes and it’s up to us to go through and check what’s true and what’s not). Ask yourself is this kind? How am I talking to myself right now? Would I say that to a friend? AND finally, my favourite question to ask myself, is this thought helpful?

2 | Develop Awareness & BOUNDARIES Around the Choices You Make

During the festive season we tend to go into people pleasing mode and say yes to things we would usually avoid. We forget that we have choices and that we can say no and set boundaries around our time and our money. We always have a choice and this is an incredibly empowering concept but often we are so busy living on auto pilot and in old patterns so we don’t even realise that we have choices.

Recognising that we have a choice-that it’s OK to say NO, that it’s OK to set boundaries around our time, to ask for help. Maybe you could consider limiting the amount of time you spend with certain people? Or perhaps you could plan ahead to take time-out before you reach a point where you feel suffocated, overwhelmed or angry (or however it is that you feel in this context).

Choose to exercise, drink plenty of water and get enough sleep because they are the basics human needs. If we don’t have those needs met, we can’t work on creating our dream life. None of these things are easy or glamorous but they are all acts of self-care which is essential during the festive season.

3 | Focus on Connection & Ask for Support If You Need It

Slow down and take space to connect with yourself and others. Try to focus on experiences and connection rather than gifts. In years to come we won’t remember or appreciate how glamorous or expensive or busy Christmas was, but we will remember the special time spent connecting with our family and loved ones.

At times in our life when we are feeling more vulnerable the festive season can be a particularly difficult time and can trigger grief and loss and loneliness. Particularly for those that are struggling with mental health issues or who have strained family relationships or are grieving the loss of a family member. If you are struggling it’s really important to seek support early and to make sure that you have a support plan in place.

Make sure you reach out and speak to someone, if that is a friend, a GP or your mental health professional just make sure that you get support sooner rather than later if you are struggling. There is no shame in struggling and we need to all work together around ending the stigma to speak up about our struggles.

Options For Support During The Christmas & New Year Period

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, in need of support or just wanting to chat during the Christmas or New Year period, Beyondblue and Lifeline have experienced people ready to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Beyondblue: Ph: 1300 22 46 36

Lifeline: 13 11 14