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Mental health tips for managing the holiday break

14 November 2023

Community services Mental health
While the time from December to the end of January can be filled with fun and frivolity, it can also be a time of increased stress and feelings of vulnerability or loneliness. Our Manager Head to Health Ruth Lawrence gives her top five tips to maintain mental wellbeing during the holidays.

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed in the build up to or during the festive period, it’s important to practise self care. Here are some simple tips to help guide you towards a more peaceful and happy holiday break.

Have a plan

  • Set realistic and achievable goals based on your individual needs – this may be to organise two social catch-ups between Christmas and New Year, or limit exposure to specific stressors
  • Don’t wait for an invite - reach out to people you know to avoid being alone and isolated on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day
  • Also consider saying “no” to invitations if you need to avoid particular stressors
  • Have something simple to look forward to, like a trip to the beach or making a favourite Christmas dish
  • Laugh and enjoy small moments
  • Create a limited time for worry each day and then put it aside.

Keep your established healthy habits during the festive season

Reflect on what works for you to cope with stress and focus on maintaining your healthy habits and using strategies that can reduce feelings of loneliness, sadness or anxiety:

  • Have a treat or two from the holiday table, but include nourishing, whole-food meals to keep you healthy and energised for the rest of the season
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, with others if possible – go for a walk, dance to music, do yoga, play backyard cricket or throw the frisbee with your friends
  • Practise good sleep hygiene – this will help maximise your emotional resilience
  • Rest when you need to
  • Try journal writing, deep breathing or meditation – apps like Smiling Mind are great for guided practice
  • Reach out to family, friends or the services listed below when you need to chat.

Spend time in nature

Connecting with nature has positive effects on our mental health. It can generate emotions such as calmness, creativity and joy, and can increase our concentration and memory.

  • Soak up the sunlight
  • Spend time by water
  • Walk among trees
  • Watch the birds
  • Lie on the grass and watch the clouds.

Giving can sometimes provide meaning

When you aren't focused on negative aspects of your life, you are taking care of yourself.

It’s the season for giving, and being of service is always a morale booster.

Helping others gets you out of your own head gives you something to do and provides purpose and meaning.

Sometimes we need to listen to others and hear their story. This can help you put things in perspective.

Mix with others and seek help

The holidays can be a period of increased vulnerability to depression, anxiety and increased substance use. Identify your support network and mental health plan ahead of time to ensure you have the support you need.

St John of God Health Care operates mental health hospitals and community mental health services in Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria over the holiday period.

Support is available

If you are in Perth’s north or east, Midland and Armadale Head to Health is open every day from 10.00am to 8.00pm (including public holidays across Christmas and New Year), while Mirrabooka and Gosnells Head to Health are open 9.00am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays) over the holiday period. 

Head to Health supports adults with mild to moderate mental health concerns (including stress and anxiety). No appointment, referral or Medicare card are necessary and services are provided at no cost. More at sjog.org.au/midlandheadtohealth or call 1800 595 212.

Elsewhere in Australia, if you need support at any time (24hrs/seven days a week):
Lifeline Australia 13 11 14
BeyondBlue 1300 224 636
Kids Helpline 1800 551 800

Ruth Lawrence
Ruth Lawrence - Manager Head to Health

Ruth is the Manager of Armadale, Midland, Gosnells and Mirrabooka Head to Health in the Perth metro area. This service offers free advice, support, assessment and treatment to adults experiencing mental health and wellbeing concerns, in a warm and welcoming environment. 

Ruth has an extensive background in mental health nursing and management, and has overseen the establishment and operation of all Head to Health centres in Perth.  

She wants the centres to be readily accessible and truly reflective of St John of God Health Care’s Values.