As we reach the last stretch of 2021, it's a time to reflect and take pause. What a year it has been with the world still experiencing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people continue to be separated from loved ones. Financial strains also continue to be experienced.
With the lead up to the festive season now in full swing, it's important to stop and take time to also consider your mental health. The stresses of the year, the final lap before a 'holiday' and the meaning and expectations this time of year can bring. Feeling overwhelmed, stressed, excited, anxious, depressed or lonely can all be valid right now. Even if these emotions seem like opposing forces.
Prioritising Mental Health. Some things to remember:
Mixed Emotions- There is much happening at this time of year, from the busy shopping centres, long lists of gifts to buy, food and cooking plans or even for many a lack of these things and a feeling of isolation. For those who have lost a loved one, it can bring a reminder of grief. The cheer of christmas carols usually won't take those feelings away. That's OK. It's important to acknowledge how you feel and remember these feelings are valid.
Stay connected- if you are separated from loved ones, lost someone close or there has been family conflict or separation, ensure you stay connected. Reaching out to friends, if you can't be with loved ones ensuring you stay connected virtually. If loneliness is experienced this time of year, get connected to community events or even volunteer your time and be around others. Seek counselling if needed.
Budget- if financial stress is weighing on you consider your budget. Stick to it whether that be food or gifts or both. Homemade gifts can be appreciated and meaningful and reduce the expense at the same time. This can include upcycling items and adding a special touch if you are creative. Consider meaning over expense. Sometimes simpler, cost effective gifts can actually have a lot of thought behind them that the recipient will appreciate. For those really doing it rough financially, remember there are many community services that can help those in need such as the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul.
Keep Up Resilience Strategies- This can be any form of self-care, eating well, limiting alcohol, exercise, mindfulness skills, keeping up a bit of time for hobbies, playing with pets, prioritising sleep, taking a social media break for a few days, listening to calming music, keeping a journal, catching up with a friend for a chat or have some alone time. Do what you know works best for you. , It's important to keep up the things that keep you resilient and help you cope better with stress.
Reduce the mental load- Prioritise what needs to be done and park what can wait until the new year. If there are some small quick tasks building up that won't take long, sometimes it's easier to complete those and tick them off the list. Say no if you are noticing you are reaching your limit in time and energy. Don't take on extra tasks if you can avoid it right now, whether that be work or socially. Recognise your limits.
Practice self-compassion- Many people are great at showing compassion to others but struggle to show the same compassion to themselves. Being gentle with yourself can become especially important at this time. Beginning to notice self-talk can help. Asking yourself am I using a lot of should's and musts? What are my expectations of myself? Do I set this high and tend to be perfectionistic? Am I hard on myself when I make a mistake rather than learning from it and moving on? When we are stressed, we can also become shorter on self compassion. Showing self-care, practising mindfulness, journaling, extending kindness to yourself as you would a friend in the same situation can help enhance self-compassion skills. Therapy can also help build self-compassion.
This time of year can bring high expectations and mixed emotions. Experience each little moment this festive season. Be present. Look after yourself. Ride the waves of stress, enjoyment and whatever emotion comes up. There is a lot to experience and learn.