The festive season is here, and it feels like every Victorian is out kicking up their heels in celebration.
But the Yuletide season isn’t a joyous one for everyone, says Jo Pioro, a Consultant EMDR/Trauma Therapist at cohealth.
“This time of year can create feelings of depression and anxiety, trigger past trauma and amplify family tensions,” says Jo.
“As counsellors and health professionals we notice the impact of Christmas on people’s mental health. As a community we should recognise that some people might need extra support and care at this time of year. And individuals need to know that their feelings are valid, and that there are things they can do to feel better.”
Jo says that the combination of a global pandemic, anxiety around emerging from lockdown and the festive season can be a triple whammy for some.
“After two years of uncertain, and sometimes scary, times people’s resilience has taken a hit. It’s really important that we’re kind to ourselves, and to each other during the holiday period,” says Jo.
Here are some tips for staying on top of your mental health and wellbeing:
- Quiet the noise: take a break from the news/social media. Navigating a newsfeed filled with ‘fake news’ and endless images of people’s festive celebrations can take its toll. Try to limit your social media consumption to a set number of hours each day, and don’t keep your phone next to the bed when you sleep.
- Take a stroll outside: Walking outdoors fulfils several goals; it gives you a dose of vitamin D from the sunlight (proven to lift the mood!), triggers your brain to release feelgood endorphins and grounds you with the natural world to help put things in perspective.
- Tell someone how you’re feeling: Sometimes the simple act of sharing your feelings with a family member or friend can help to lighten the load. And you’ll be amazed at how people respond when you open up. Sometimes it gives them permission to talk about their own struggles too.
- Write down some of the things that you’re grateful for. Whether it’s the pleasure of the sun on your skin, a stirring piece of music or a delicious meal, focusing your time and attention on what you appreciate allows us to approach difficulties from a different perspective. Practising gratitude doesn’t mean convincing yourself that everything is great or blocking out difficulties. It’s a mindful practice that reminds us that not everything is terrible and keeps our hearts open to the tenderness of daily life.
- Book an appointment with a professional: Talking to a counsellor or psychologist can help you feel more in control of your life, find different ways to handle problems, explore options you may not know about or get a clear picture of what you want to do. The important thing is talking to someone who is qualified and professionally trained.
- Learning how to develop diversion & coping strategies to relieve stress and anxiety throughout life is an important skill to have; especially learning how to create positive-seeking and healthy self-care habits. It can help short term to divert our attention to activities and good coping strategies to help us manage stress, anxiety, and low mood. Try some of the below which are linked to self-soothing our five senses:
Vision – watching tv or your favourite movie, walking in a pretty part of town/city, look at your most loved photos, look at a book with beautiful scenery, draw and get creative.
Hearing – listen to your favourite music, sit on the beach and listen to the waves, listen to nature, when you listen be mindful let the sounds come and go.
Smell – Notice all the different smells around you. Walk in a garden or in the woods, maybe just after a rain, and breathe in the smells of nature. Light a scented candle or incense. Cook something nice or bake some cakes and take in all the smells.
Taste – Have a special treat, and eat it slowly, savouring each bite. Cook a favourite meal, drink a soothing drink like herbal tea or hot chocolate. Let the taste run over your tongue and slowly down your throat, taste your favourite sweeties and chocolate.
Touch – Have a bubble bath, pet your animals, put on clothes that feel soft, make your bed with soft cosy bedding. Float or swim in a pool and feel the water all around your body.
cohealth offers a range of mental health programs and counselling services across the north and west of Melbourne, with skilled practitioners who are trained to meet the diverse needs of the community.
cohealth does not operate a crisis service for people needing immediate help. It’s important that you know there is help available if you need it quickly.
The following services are open throughout the Christmas break:
Depression, anxiety and related disorders
24 hours/7 days
1300 22 4636
Crisis support, suicide prevention and mental health support services
24 hours/7 days
13 11 14
For additional mental health helplines, go to healthdirect.gov.au.