Emotional first aid tips for the festive season

With Christmas just around the corner and the year rapidly drawing to an end, I feel this is a befitting time to send a warm message to you all and share some practical emotional first aid suggestions that may be helpful during the festive season.

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I understand that for some people Christmas can be a time of heartfelt giving, joy and excitement and a time to connect more deeply with loved ones and extended family members. As Washington Irving so gracefully put it “Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart”. 

However, I know that for others, this time of year can be a very overwhelming and stressful time. There can be the financial pressure, the mad dash of gift buying, the need to see family members you’d rather not see, the pressure to be certain places within limited timeframes, and the huge overbearing pressure to be happy through it all!  These added pressures can heighten any existing anxiety, stress, depression, and sometimes even bring out anger.

Whether the Christmas season is a pleasure or pain, it is still important to take care of your emotional self. With this in mind, my heartfelt gift to you is a list of practical emotional first aid suggestions to help you to care for your emotional wellbeing during the festive season.

  1. It’s important to remember that stress, anxiety, and depression can be common during the festive season. If nothing else, reassure yourself that these feelings are normal, you are not alone.

  2. Go for a walk/bike ride/swim. Exercise is great for your emotional wellbeing. It affects you at the neurotransmitter level releasing endorphins that have an antidepressant-like effect on your brain while at the same time decreasing muscle tension.

  3. Tone down your perfectionist. Sometimes the anxiety of Christmas can fuel the perfectionist within us and in turn the perfectionist can fuel our anxiety. Use relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or focusing on your breath to cope with anxiety or tension. Notice when your perfectionist is rising within you and ask her/him to take a back seat.

  4. Take time out for yourself and do something that makes you feel good. This could mean spending time in nature, meditating, reading a good book or dancing in the lounge room to your favourite song (personally, I love a good boogie). Whatever floats your boat and makes you feel good. Connect with yourself and ask yourself what it is you need.

  5. If you are having some personal struggles this Christmas, don’t be afraid to ask for, or accept, help and make plans to spend time with those people who are most supportive and caring toward you.

  6. Have realistic expectations and set boundaries. There may be bickering with family members and tension at Christmas gatherings. Avoid known triggers. If someone brings up a touchy topic, remember you are not obliged to engage. Establish strong boundaries within yourself about how you will deal with cantankerous or more provocative people.

  7. Be kind to your body. Get plenty of sleep and plan for some early nights. If drinking/smoking over Christmas (which can be unavoidable for many of us), be mindful of how much you are drinking or smoking. Drink plenty of water and put lots of fresh foods and leafy greens into your body. Your body will thank you and your brain will feel much better for it!

May these emotional first aid suggestions send you shining and smiling into the new year!

I too will be doing my best to follow these suggestions :)

With warmest wishes and love, may you have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.