The holiday season evokes images of Christmas trees, eating, drinking, and generally doing enjoyable things. However, for many, it is the most challenging time of year. People with a mental health diagnosis, such as depression, sometimes feel lower at this time of year, people can feel more isolated, and those who have lost loved ones often experience stronger grief. Studies show that there is additional stress associated with the Christmas period, which sometimes translates into an increased intake of alcohol or drugs and/or increased family violence or abuse. If you feel isolated, reach out – there may be places nearby where you could enjoy a group lunch, or even volunteering at something similar often improves mood. If you are prone to low mood, try to keep consistent routines over this time, and support yourself by doing something enjoyable every day. The beach can have a lovely vibe on Christmas Day! If you are missing a loved one who has died, you may like to have a ritual to remind you of them, such as lighting a candle or framing a picture of them to have around you.
Families who have separated often have a tough time at this time of year also, as parents navigate care arrangements. Support your children who may have memories of spending Christmas altogether and/or feel worried about a parent who is alone. You might start your own traditions (e.g. Christmas breakfast instead of dinner, going to see Christmas lights). Never speak badly of the other parent and letting the children call their other parent can help them adjust and feel connected. If you are the parent alone over Christmas, you may wish to spend it with a friend or other family. Remember that children need love before expensive presents. If you can’t afford a gift at all, you might link in with charitable organisations that can assist with gifts and/or Christmas food hampers. For parents who are estranged from their children, nothing prevents you from writing a card to a child and keeping it for them for another time.
Overall, check in with yourself at this time of year, support your own needs, and beware of maladaptive coping, such as increased drinking, drug-taking, or other habits. Remember, if you are struggling and need some support, you can call:
Kids Helpline: 1800-55-1800
DV Support: 1800-737-732
If you are at risk of harm, you can call Acute Mental Health on 1800-022-222 or attend your local hospital emergency centre. Keep safe, look after yourself, and have a safe and happy holiday season!