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Looking after your mental health this holiday season

A woman sits with her elbow resting on top of a pile of wrapped Christmas presents, her chin on her hand, a tired expression on her face.
Finding ways to look after yourself at Christmas can help you stay healthy and happy throughout the holidays.

The silly season can be a time of fun and frivolity, but it can also take its toll on our mental health. Spending time with or without family and friends, financial stresses, packed calendars and long to-do lists might seem overwhelming, and more stressful than day-to-day life.

Follow these tips to help you take care of your mental wellbeing throughout the holidays.

Recognise stress

Ongoing stress or anxiety isn’t normal, even if it seems like everyone around you is a little bit on edge at Christmas time. Stress can manifest itself in lots of different ways; from feeling moody or irritable, to having trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, or getting upset or hurt feelings easily.

If you catch yourself starting to feel stressed, you can try techniques like relaxation, taking a break to do something you enjoy, writing down all the things you have to do, or doing some exercise to help you find some calm.

Learn more about how to recognise stress and some solutions for managing it from our article ‘How to deal with stress this holiday season’.

A man wearing a Santa hat, beard and jacket sits crossed legged meditating.

You think what you eat

We’ve all seen a kid hyped up on sugar, and the tantrum-filled ‘come down’, but as adults we often forget that what we’re eating might impact how we’re feeling mentally. Your diet and your mental health are linked, with researchers finding that food not only has an impact on our mental health when we eat it, but it can alter our gut bacteria, which can affect mood, too.

Before you indulge in heaps of sugary or processed food over the holidays, think about how they might make you feel afterwards. If you’re looking for healthy alternatives, check out our party food recipes on Healthier. Happier.

Understand how alcohol affects you

As your body gets alcohol out of your system, your blood sugar levels drop, which actually stresses your brain out. This can lead to feelings of anxiousness and worry, and can be especially concerning if you have an anxiety disorder.

Lots of people drink to relax or in an attempt to rid themselves of worries or anxiety for a few hours, but if this comes with a hefty dose of anxiousness, you might need to rethink this coping mechanism.

If you are concerned about your own or someone else’s alcohol or other drug use, call Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS), a free, 24/7 anonymous and confidential telephone counselling and information service on 1800 177 833.

Take a day off

The silly season can sometimes feel like everything is ‘go, go, go’ with no ‘stop’ in sight. But you don’t have to do every activity or go to every party if you’re not feeling up to it. Take a ‘mental health day’ (or afternoon, or hour) and excuse yourself from the fray for some good quality you time.

A man sits at a table, head in his hands, Santa hat pulled down over his eyes.

See a professional

It can be easy to talk yourself out of getting help for your mental wellbeing. But if you’ve been not feeling ‘yourself’ – which could be feeling angry, sad, stressed or irritable – for two weeks or more, it’s time to talk to a professional about it. Book an appointment with your GP, call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for 24-hour confidential health advice, or find a mental health service in your area.

If you need to talk to someone right now, the below hotlines offer support:

Lifeline: visit the website or call 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: visit the website or call 1300 22 4636

Mental Health Access Line: 1300 642255

Always call Triple Zero (000) if you think it's an emergency.

Look out for your mates

Holidays, Christmas and the New Year can also be stressful for those around us. If you’re worried about someone, we’ve written this guide to speaking with a mate about mental health, or call Triple Zero (000) if you think it’s an emergency.

Further reading

Want to know more about looking after your mental health? Follow the links below.

Last updated: 6 December 2019