With the holiday period fast approaching, it is easy to get caught up in the frantic nature of this time of year. As our diaries fill with engagements, as we over indulge and push the limits it comes as no surprise that stress, anxiety and exhaustion levels are heightened.
Whilst the holiday period can be a very exciting time, it is important to take a moment to check in with yourself and consider a few of the following tasks to maximise your wellbeing into the new year.
Routine & Daily Rituals
Often the first thing that goes when we experience heightened periods of stress is our routine. It's important not to forget the daily activities and tasks that might occur automatically, but bring purpose and meaning to your day. I like to refer to these tasks as ‘daily rituals’ — they may be small but they are functions that sustain you, make you feel good from the inside-out and help kick start your brain to build positive habits (and start to change the ones that don’t serve you).
Aside from the usual routine of eating well, and getting plenty of rest and exercise, daily rituals could include: walking a little further for your morning coffee to clear your mind, starting each morning with an affirmation you’ve written, attending a different gym or yoga class to challenge yourself, meditating for 10 minutes each morning or reading a new book, considering a new hobby or creative pursuit to engage your brain in a different way, cleaning your home or office with intent and seeing it as an opportunity to cleanse your environment.
Make Yourself a Priority
Recognising and honouring yourself during this time is vitally important. There are a number of cultural and societal beliefs that allude to self care as being a selfish act. This is untrue. Rather I like to see self care as a courageous act that sees you showing up in your world and embodies self-responsibility.
Honouring yourself isn’t always easy. Often coming to a place of comfort with your self care routine takes time as it is a learning process - to unlearn negative ways of caring for ourselves and embrace positive ones. A good place to start is by reflecting on your boundaries; what feels right and what doesn’t? What is it that you want and value in your life and what don’t you? This generates a list of positive and negatives that can guide you and bring to attention areas within your life that can be adopted or changed.
When we have a clearer idea of what we want and value, we tend to be more comfortable with setting boundaries and using the big “NO” word. One of the most common behaviours we continue to do is say ‘Yes’ to something we don’t want to do and then give ourselves a hard time for doing so. This can be a difficult skill to learn for most people, particularly if you are a people pleaser, but its not impossible! So let’s try to interrupt this pattern and think about each action or request we are about to enter into over the holiday period, pause and create some space to think about it, ensure it feels right prior to responding. If it doesn’t it may be a great time to practice NO.
It is also important to regularly check in with how you feel in a particular situation or given moment. Do a quick ‘emotion check’ – how am I feeling right now and start to honour that emotion. If you are sad, acknowledge this, if you are uncomfortable acknowledge this, if you are nervous acknowledge this. Being mindful of your emotions rather than trying to supress or ignore them is powerful & allowing you to be present in the moment.
Self care is listening to your body and caring for it physically, emotionally and mentally, eating, drinking and socialising in moderation and being really clear on your limits. Often we push ourselves to fit everything into our calendar and get to the end of the year exhausted. Lets attempt to slow down just a little.
Be a Mindful Consumer
With increasing societal pressures to give Christmas gifts and spend copious amounts of money on the newest gift crazes, we are unknowingly creating extraordinary financial stresses, debts and burdens that follow us into the New Year.
If you haven’t already completed your shopping, rethink your gift giving strategy to include more mindful consumption practices. Being mindful means you embody an awareness that allows you to make clear decisions, remaining in touch with your priorities & underlying motives for spending and helps you to become conscious of the value placed on certain material items. Being mindful also means you are shopping within your means.
Create a ‘mindful budget’ for each family member or friend you wish to buy for and stick to it. Consider purchasing from stores that support your local community or that give back to charity. Consider giving mindful gifts that provide an experience or require the receiver to do something: a set of paints to create an artwork, a book to aid self-development or a ticket to a local gallery or show.
Create Intentions & Small Goals
Creating new intentions and setting small goals can give you a real meaningful boost and provides you some quiet moments to ponder and reflect on your achievements and set backs over the year. Realistic goals and small intentions that affirm what’s important to you don’t need to wait until New Years Eve! In fact often we feel so pressured to have a New Years Resolution that we create these huge endeavours that are difficult to achieve and leaves us feeling disillusioned and discouraged with our efforts. So start now. Nothing too hectic or extreme, just small and repeatable functions you can carry out to honour your self and your needs.
Be Realistic About Family:
Family dynamics are often amplified during the holiday period as we come together with people we have not seen for some time, don’t wish to see, or are expected to maintain a jovial relationship with. Even the most tolerant and happy of family members may find themselves feeling burdened by expectations, unable to meet the demands placed upon them or feeling triggered by unexpected emotions or unresolved tensions.
Conflict within families is common. It’s important to remember this and allow yourself space if and when you need it. Remember that you may not have control over your family members; what they say or how they act, but you do have control over yourself and your actions.
Putting healthy boundaries in place around what you will do with family, what you can and cannot contribute over this period and clarifying expectations can be immensely helpful. Setting time limits for family functions and communicating this on your arrival allows everyone to be clear about your commitments or limitations on the day. This helps you maintain a sense of control in an environment that might otherwise feel out of control and will hopefully assist you in making good use of the time you have allocated to your family.
The message we are told is that the holiday period is a time for “happiness, family unity and holiday cheer” but for many people the reality is anything but. As Christmas approaches it can be an incredibly tense and tough period. Loneliness, hardship, grief and loss can significantly increase stress levels and one’s ability to cope resulting in disruption and mental health issues.
Sadly, many of us remain silent about how difficult Christmas actually is, how burdened you may feel by all the expectations or how lonely or isolated you are. Speaking up is ‘just not in the spirit of Christmas’. This means many of our difficult experiences or hardships go unheard and unnoticed.
In acting mindfully, I encourage you to check in with how you are coping (or not coping) and reach out for help if you are struggling. No man is an island, you’re not expected to go it all alone. Reaching out can feel odd at first but it is often the first step required to getting the help you deserve. Speak to a friend, a neighbour, a counsellor or a colleague. For those that are isolated or need someone more formal to speak to a number of telephone support services are available over this period and will be listed at the end.
If you feel capable giving of your self can be a great antidote to feelings of depression, loneliness and isolation. For those who have no family to celebrate with volunteering at a shelter or food truck that prepares meals - Ruff Sleepers is a popular and much needed option. Get creative, contact your local council or charity and check what they have happening within the local community that you can get involved in or help with.
Lifeline on 13 11 14
Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue on 1300 2246 36
About Brooke Cefai
Brooke Cefai is a Melbourne based Counsellor & Wellbeing Facilitator who has spent two decades working in a number of diverse counselling and wellness settings in Sydney & Melbourne. This includes the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Victims Services NSW, PWD Abuse & Neglect Hotline, Mission Australia Counselling Services, and Essential Energies Wellbeing Centre. Brooke’s qualifications include a Graduate Diploma of Counselling and Masters of Counselling and Psychotherapy. Wellness qualifications include a Certificate of Metaphysics and Advanced Certificate of Spiritual Healing. She is professionally registered with the Psychotherapy & Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA).
Brooke uses a holistic approach to counselling that draws on a number of counselling models and techniques chosen specifically to meet a person’s current needs. This approach considers physiological and psychological disorder as part of a greater whole and will focus on the relationship between body, mind and spirit to empower individuals to unlock their innate wisdom and potential. Brooke is further guided by a psychodynamic framework meaning within sessions the aim is to bring unconscious elements within one's life into consciousness and often requires an exploration of your past to understand the current impact on the present. Brooke is available for private counselling sessions at MISS FOX, online, and at her South Melbourne clinic. Contact Brooke here or at www.brookecefai.com