A Guide to Happy Holidays

The holiday season comes with fatigue and can often be passengered with growing feelings of stress, anxiety and shifts in mood. Demand expectations of creating, or partaking in, ‘happy’ holidays are readily found through a visit to your local supermarket, school, social media pages and neighbourhood displays, to name only a few early celebrators.

The holiday season offers an overwhelming hierarchy of good and bad stressors for all. Visits from in-laws and interstate friends, entertaining children home from school, end of year parties, shopping, financial spend, cleaning, wrapping presents, crowds – all while the thermometer creeps up with the Australian summer heat – can blindside us from looking after ourselves as we navigate through the whirr of activities.

To ensure you minimise the stress and angst that can feel synonymous with the end of year holidays, here are a few tips and techniques we recommend:

Accept that you can’t please everyone – Not only is it stressful to try and live up to other people’s expectations, but it is also very draining. Notice when in your heart you genuinely want to do something for someone versus when you’re doing something just because someone else wants you to or you fear consequences if you don’t. Learning the difference will help you make better choices for yourself.

Take time to reflect – If the year in review feels like a blur, sit and actively reflect on pivotal occasions that have shaped your character in 2015. Identify those moments where you achieved set goals, learned new things, helped someone out or challenged yourself and be grateful for those who have supported you along the way.

Say no if you need to – If you find yourself signing up for extra activities or heading off to events when you would rather be doing anything else – STOP and check in with yourself. The key question to keep asking is, “are you spending your time on the right things?” Don’t feel guilty that you can’t say yes to everything. People understand that you are busy and you’re much better company when you’re truly invested.

Stop comparing yourself to others – It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking everyone else is more organised / social / fit / fabulous than us, particularly if you’re guilty of too often drawing unfavourable comparisons between yourself and others. Move away from trawling social media and refocus your attention to your own world. Identify your unique values, needs and wants that will help to guide your activity through the holiday season.

Be flexible – If you prefer to adopt a highly organised mindset to the holiday season, chances are you are used to the frustrations that accompany elements of your planning that are out of your control. Cognitive flexibility and realistic expectation setting are important to good mental health. Focus on the positives of a situation when all you see are the negatives, make peace with what (and who) you cannot change, weigh up pros and cons realistically, and ensure Plans B – Z are part of your considerations for when Plan A is no longer viable.

Don’t wait until the New Year to practice good habits – The holiday season is full of temptation and indulgence and it’s one of the easiest times of year to lose track of your goals and self-regulation. You probably already have a growing list of personal goals (i.e. giving up bad habits, improved fitness, socialising more, learning new skills, becoming a better version of yourself, etc.) that you may feel will be best started in the new year – but why not move on some of these now? Take advantage of some time out of your usual work/ study/ home routine and start shaping your goals rather than waiting until “the right time”. The right time for many things is right now.

Reach out – We all need support from time to time and if you feel you need to talk openly about how you’re feeling or you can’t shake off persistent feelings of irritability, sadness or stress, consider speaking to a professional. Cause Effect Psychologists are available across the holiday season should you be interested in talking about your experiences to a trained third party.

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