The Holidays and Mental Health

The Holidays and Mental Health

20 December 2017

The end of year can be a stressful time. With a new year around the corner, many people reflect on the past year and their achievements. The feeling of not having fulfilled everything they had set out to do can lead to a downwards spiral of negative emotions that is fuelled by the pressures of everyday life and high expectations for the holidays. This can become too much to handle, even for an otherwise healthy person.

The more the merrier? – A challenging time of high expectations
Christmas time can be overwhelming for anyone – managing expectations of the people around you, trying to create the perfect memorable experience… or at the other extreme, feeling lonely and isolated while everyone else seems to be having the time of their lives. With social media constantly streaming everyone’s success story directly into your every living space, it is difficult not to constantly compare your own life to the seemingly perfect ones of those in your social circle. All these factors contribute to depression and anxiety disorders being on the rise in general, not just this time of year.

Christmas time – even more challenging for people with a mental illness
For someone experiencing a mental health condition, Christmas time can be even more challenging. Some conditions for example involve unusual sensitivity to stimuli such as noise, light or colour and may be aggravated by the commotion around Christmas. Additionally, family tensions, poor nutrition and excessive alcohol consumption, as well as the perceived pressure to take part in the seasonal festivities, can make people feel worse this time of year.

Resolutions for a better New Year?
Do you feel like you are getting dragged down by things in your life and would like to make changes in the New Year? New Year’s Resolutions can help, but only if you stick to them. Rather than focussing on your weaknesses or something you feel you are not good at, why not try this: Think about the things you enjoy doing, and then plan to do more of them, on a regular basis, scheduling them in between your day-to-day activities. This strategy from cognitive-behavioural therapy is proven to enhance mental wellbeing: regularly doing things you enjoy in a mindful way (being in the here and now) affects your overall thinking positively in the long run. Sure, it does not actually remove problems from your life, but it can strengthen you mentally and enable you to cope better with stressful situations.

Interested in learning more about mental health conditions?
St John SA offers a 2-day Mental Health First Aid course, which educates about a number of different mental health conditions and equips participants with the skills and confidence to assist someone that may be affected or in need of help. More knowledge around the topic and a greater understanding of mental health conditions can make it easier to get a conversation started, which is often the hardest step.

Merry Christmas and look out for one another!
All of us at St John wish you a safe and Merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Whatever you get up to over the festive season and holidays, look after yourself and look out for one another!

If you need immediate help:
If you or someone around you is experiencing a personal crisis, call:

13 11 14 – Lifeline Crisis support and suicide prevention
000 – Ambulance if life is at risk

Find out more, including information about other support options, on the Beyond Blue website.