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Christmas is often thought of as a time for family and friends – a time to unwind and get into the spirit of giving.
However, for many Christmas can be a source of additional stress or a reminder of losses of family or friends. It is important to be extra mindful of self-care during this time of year, to ensure you don’t lean on unhelpful strategies (alcohol, drugs, etc.) that are readily available during the holidays.
For those recovering from traumas such as violent crime, your body may be particularly sensitive to stress for some time after the incident. You may still be having trouble sleeping, concentrating and letting go of painful images and emotions as it is. On top of this, the increased expenses at the holidays, crowded shops, and frenetic schedule can put some over their limit.
For others who may have lost a loved one, whether due to a crime or otherwise, a holiday can be a painful reminder of that loss. It is therefore extra important that survivors of a crime or loss (and their families) pay extra attention to self-care.
Consider the following tips to develop a self-care plan to survive the holidays:
1. Use mindfulness – pay full attention to what is pleasant right around you. Focus on your breath to stay “in the present” and grounded as much as possible.
2. Engage in positive relationships – stay close to those that are good supports and engaged in a healthy lifestyle. Where possible, limit your time with unhealthy or unsafe relationships. You may wish to work with a counsellor for additional support with relationship issues.
3. Make time for yourself. Put your self-care first by taking a walk, having a cup of tea, whatever you do just for you, every day. We are much more resilient to stress when we put even a small amount of time into ourselves.
4. Healthy sleep, diet and exercise – the cornerstones of managing stress. Avoid alcohol or drugs, including caffeine. Work with your doctor to get a plan that works for you.
5. Healthy distractions – getting overwhelmed? Find non-harmful distractions that take your mind away from painful or stressful thoughts for short periods of time. Music, books, TV, apps, can be helpful in small doses.
6. Be part of something bigger than yourself. Whether through a team, club or spiritual group, being part of a community can help shift your focus to the “big picture” as well as give you access to positive social support.
7. Grieve with someone. If grieving a loss, find someone you trust to share your feelings with. Sometimes a talk with someone who shares those feelings can help one accept the loss, refocus and make new holiday memories.
8. Seek counselling support as needed. If you need support developing a self-care plan or recovering from a crime or loss, call Relationships Australia for support on 1300 364 277
9. If you are in need of urgent support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or 000 for immediate support.