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Getting prepared

Tips for navigating Christmas


Aisling Lawless, Guest contributor, Relationships Australia WA

6 mins 30 secs

These tips have contributed by our partner Relationships Australia WA

The Christmas and holiday period can be an exciting time of get-togethers and holiday-related activities. However many people may face a range of stresses or concerns heading into this time.

These tips can help you to identify and manage issues. You may find that by reviewing your goals, the lead up to Christmas Day is more enjoyable.

Loneliness at Christmas

Isolation can be a troubling concern for many individuals during the holiday season. This could be due to a relationship break up, family estrangement or relocation to a new city away from relatives and friends.

  • Keeping in contact with your loved ones through phone or email will help alleviate feelings of loneliness.
  • Christmas shopping for presents for your relatives and friends can also help you feel connected to them.
  • Make plans for Christmas Day. Accept an invitation for Christmas dinner, or host your own with other people who may be in a similar situation to you.
  • If you have no one to share Christmas with, consider volunteering for community organisations to help people in need.
  • Plan your alone time. Just because you might be by yourself doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your day and make the most of it. Fill it with the things you like to do best such as going to the movies, reading a book, going for a walk, or having breakfast in bed.
  • Exercise. Exercise can have a positive effect on your emotional health and wellbeing, so if you are feeling lonely or down, go for a brisk walk or jog.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help or accept it if it is offered. This is a key step in avoiding loneliness at Christmas.

There are many free community Christmas lunches you can attend where you may meet new people and make new friends:

http://www.shelterwa.org.au/free_christmas_lunches_in_perth

https://www.christmaslunchinthepark.com.au/about/

How you can help

Set an extra place at your table and invite someone who may be feeling lonely this Christmas. Whether it’s a neighbour whose children are all heading to their in-law’s this year, or the  international student who couldn't afford to go home for the holidays, or the entire family who for cultural or religious reasons don’t typically celebrate Christmas, there are plenty of people in our community who are going to be isolated this Christmas.

Do you or someone you know need support this Christmas? Visit Relationships Austalia WA's website for help: www.relationshipswa.org.au 

Step-family Christmas

People living in separated, blended or step-families can face significant challenges in managing complex family structures and contact arrangements with children.

It is crucial to talk about the possibilities with everybody involved and hear their preferences. The parent team can then make the final decision about what they think will work best for everyone. Planning is key.

  • Try to spend one-on-one time with each child over the Christmas period so that no one feels left out.
  • It will take a while until a step-family has let go of the emotional ties to old traditions. So encourage everyone to be patient with everyone else, as you all adjust. Focus on creating some new traditions.
  • Lay down some basic rules and consequences so that the line is drawn for unwanted behaviours.
  • Step-sibling relationships can be volatile during Christmas, especially when the age gap is small. It’s challenging to accommodate everyone’s needs, but make sure all children feel included and valued. Keep talking to your children, it can help them adjust to the changes.
  • Planning is crucial – talk it over with everyone involved and hear their preferences. Then the parent team can make the final decision about what they think will work best for everyone.
  • It helps to write down what has been planned for the season so that everyone is in the loop and there is no confusion.
  • Try not to spend a lot of money on gifts to compensate for the difficulties your children have been experiencing or to outdo your ‘ex’. Try to communicate with your ‘ex’ so that you both know what you are buying.
  • Keep arrangements as simple as possible so you are not over-committing yourselves.
  • Spend as much time outdoors as possible so children can let off excess energy.
  • Expect that there will be a few hiccups, and don’t over-react. Stick to the basic rules agreed. Remember, conflicts, divided loyalties and competition are part of every family’s Christmas.

Managing the stress

Organise yourself

Schedule time for exercise, relaxation, cooking and eating meals, and plan to complete certain tasks on certain days. These routines can be reassuring as they make life more predictable.

Also plan time for the additional things you need to do at this time of year, such as Christmas shopping, wrapping and catching up with family and friends. Book these in your diary, so you know you will get them done.

Have reasonable expectations

The holiday period can be a time when we place additional expectations and responsibilities upon ourselves. Re-evaluate what you can reasonably get done before Christmas, so that these goals are achievable. This might mean deferring a get-together with friends until the New Year, or minimising the amount of cooking you might do for Christmas activities. You may find that by reviewing your goals, the lead up to Christmas day is more enjoyable.

Be kind to yourself by giving yourself positive feedback

Tell yourself that you can cope, and that you will complete the things you need to do to the best of your ability. Avoid negative self-talk, including statements such as I can’t do this or I can’t cope with this. You are an individual who is doing the best you can, and negative self-talk can increase your stress levels.

Spend time with people you care about

Spend time with friends and loved ones who will listen to you and understand you. Share your thoughts and feelings with people who care about you and may be able to support you.

Take time out

Take time out by doing something on a regular basis that is just for you. This might involve going for a short walk in the fresh air, listening to your favourite music, having a coffee/tea/chai at a café or at home, watching your favourite TV program, reading, having a nap, talking to a friend, having a special treat or gardening. Whatever you choose, it doesn’t have to be an expensive or long activity; just something to give yourself a short break from the stress around you.

Eat a balanced diet

It can be tempting to indulge during the holidays, with lots of events happening with food and drinks on offer. Try to maintain a healthy diet though, including lots of fruits and vegetables. Also try to minimise foods that are high in fat and sugar, and avoid depending on cigarettes, alcohol or drugs to cope with stress.

Exercise

Exercise can have a positive effect on your emotional health and well-being. Exercise your heart and lungs regularly, with activities including walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, aerobics, dancing or going to the gym. Try to exercise for at least 15-30 minutes, three days per week. If you’re finding this is hard to achieve at this time of year, aim for a 10 minute walk each day. The short break can help to refresh you and re-energise you for your next tasks.

Practise relaxation

Relaxation can include formal exercises such as meditation, progressive muscle relaxation and yoga, as well as more informal methods such as listening to music and taking time out to read a book. There are a range of relaxation apps available to download for smartphones and tablets such as Smiling Mind and Breathe.

Rest

Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night. When working or studying, take regular breaks, as there is only so much your mind can absorb at one time, without time to process and integrate information. Rest your eyes as well as your mind, particularly when spending time looking at computer screens or smart devices.

Keystart recommends that you seek your own independent financial advice prior to making any decisions about your financial needs. Any examples given in this post are provided for illustrative purposes only.