Six ways to holiday-proof your mental health

22 Nov 2023

As the holiday season draws near, our mental health can come under extra pressure. In addition to the fun stuff that rolls around in December and January, like time off work (if you’re lucky) and silly season shindigs, added pressures can also abound. So, scroll on for how to look after your mental wellbeing right now.

According to Nancy Sokarno, Registered Psychologist at Lysn, “the festive season can add another layer of stress – such as buying Christmas presents, hosting family, having kids at home, or feeling lonely. Post-December 25, we start to look back on the year, which often brings thoughts around lack of achievement or not measuring up to expectations. During this time of year, it’s quite natural to take stock of your life.”

Thankfully, according to the experts, there are steps you can take to up your resilience and support good mental health. So, in the spirit of giving, we asked Nancy for her top six strategies for festive season-proofing your mental health.

1. Get enough Zzz’s 

“This is a basic one, but it’s surprising how many people don’t allow themselves to get enough sleep each night. Each individual body is different, and we require different levels of rest. If you’re unsure, always listen to your body and give it the rest it needs.”

2. Practice mindfulness

“Mindfulness can be beneficial because it allows you to focus on the moment (rather than worrying about upcoming events, or that never-ending to-do list). Mindfulness helps you focus on what you can control and enjoy the present moment.”

“As for which mindfulness activity to do, well, anything that requires your mind and body to focus on one thing is ideal! Try meditation, yoga, journaling, colouring in or even some deep breathing.”

3. Focus on what you can control, not what you can’t

“We often find ourselves ruminating about things we have no control over, worrying about things that could happen (and sometimes never do happen). Take the time to write down the things you can control, along with what you can partly control, and what you simply cannot control.”

“Then, dedicate your energy to planning how you will improve the things you can control and try to let go of the things that you have no control over. This will help with feelings of anxiety during the festive season.”

4. Set clear boundaries

“Many challenges during the festive season come about due to not having specific boundaries with certain people and your time. It’s important to set clear boundaries during the festive season, so you don’t then feel frustrated, resentful or overwhelmed.”

“An example of a clear boundary could be when it comes to attending an event – it’s OK for you to say that you will only attend for two hours, rather than having to commit to an entire day/night’s activities.”

5. Schedule worry time

“While it might sound counter-intuitive to encourage you to worry, if you’re going to do it anyway, you’re better off doing it with some restrictions in place. ‘Worry time’ refers to the practice of setting aside an allocated time to worry each day. Anywhere from 15 mins to 30 minutes is enough. You can write down any of your worries throughout the day, then only think about them in your allocated time.”

“The idea behind worry time is that it can stop you from spending all day worrying about the same things. The act of writing it down can allow you to almost forget about it temporarily. Just be sure to only practice worry time in the afternoon for a short amount of time, and avoid doing it right before bed or when you first wake up. Ideally, you can allow time for a joyful activity after your worry time, such as watching your favourite TV show or having coffee with a friend.”

 6. Prioritise your physical health

“Truly understanding how the mind-body connection works is the focus of ongoing research, however what we do know is that a person’s biology (body) can affect their psychology (mind), and vice versa.”

“For example, using the body for exercise is thought to lessen feelings of anxiety because it produces changes in brain areas associated with anxiety. Conversely, chronic stress may negatively affect the immune system through the elevated production of stress-related hormones.”

“It is important to keep in mind the fact that our physical health affects our mental health and therefore ensure that we exercise regularly, eat nutritious food, drink plenty of water and avoid overuse of substances such as alcohol or drugs.”

Need a push to prioritise your physical health? The Push-Up Challenge 2024 kicks off on June 5. Register your interest today, or check out the deets on our How It Works page. We’d love to have you push with us in 2024.

Nancy Sokarno
Registered Psychologist, @psychwithsokz