Monthly News: December 2019

Building Resilience at Christmas

Christmas can come with some mixed emotions. This month gain some helpful tips for surviving this often challenging holiday season.

For many of us, Christmas can be a time of joy, excitement, family connection and showing love and kindness to others. However, despite the joys that Christmas can bring, it is a notoriously difficult time of year for people.

Common difficulties at Christmas which increase stress include:
Money worries around affording presents, Christmas food or travel costs.
Family difficulties such as underlying family conflicts, or feeling out of control of who you see at Christmas.
Increased workload or workplace pressures to finish before the Christmas break
High expectations to have ‘the perfect Christmas’
Increased alcohol and food consumption
Disruption to your regular routine

Whether it is due to financial pressures, family dynamics, increased alcohol and/or food consumption, or reminders of lost loved ones, the months of December and January lead to increased stress levels. Left unchecked, these increased stress levels can negatively impact our mental health, often exacerbating symptoms of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse issues, as well as our physical health.

Therefore, it is important to try and boost your resilience around Christmas time in order to protect your mental health and wellbeing from deteriorating due to stress. Resilience is defined as the ability to cope with adversity, being able to bounce back after stressful or difficult life events. Studies have shown that resilience-building is highly effective in reducing the impacts of stress and protecting general mental health. Therefore, this month, we will focus on why resilience is important, and how to build your resilience in the festive season.

What is resilience?

Resilience is defined as the ability to adapt well in the face of adversity, stress, threats or tragedy (e.g. financial stress, family and relationship problems, grief and loss, physical health problems).

If a person is resilient, it does not mean that they do not experience difficult things, or are not affected by the difficulties they face. Being resilient means that even when things go wrong, or even if you struggle with the inevitable impacts of that, you are able to take steps to be able to bounce back.

For example, your goal is to change jobs and gain a more varied role. If you apply for a role, and are rejected, you will inevitably feel upset, sad, deflated and maybe demoralised. A resilient person would then bounce back, with their goal in mind, and keep applying, maybe looking at what they could learn from this rejection. Someone struggling with low resilience levels might stop applying after this rejection and struggle to bounce back and achieve their goals.

Being resilient is often human beings’ natural state, with many of us bouncing from difficult events without any external help. However, for those that struggle with resilience, you are not without hope. We are able to gain resilience and learn resilience through life experiences and training. Resilience is a skill that constantly can be practiced and improved.

The Benefits of Resilience

  • Improved learning and academic achievement
  • Lower absences from work or study due to sickness
  • Higher levels of success
  • Reduced use of risk-taking behaviours e.g. excessive drinking/drug-taking
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Greater life satisfaction
  • Longer life

On the other hand, if you are not able to be resilient in the face of stress around Christmas, or any time of year, this can lead to chronic stress which is associated with:

  • High blood pressure
  • Weakened immune system
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Heartburn
  • Heart disease
  • Digestive difficulties
  • Substance abuse

Top 10 Resilience Building Strategies

Based on all the benefits of increasing your resilience, here are our top 10 tips on how to boost your resilience and reap the benefits:

#1. Invest in your Physical Health:  A key way to build resilience is to invest in your physical health, through a healthy and balanced diet as well as regular exercise.

Try: Scheduling regular exercise into your week, take opportunities to get moving more throughout the day, track your food in a diary to bring more awareness to the food you are eating.

#2. Make time to relax: Modern life can be fast-paced and hectic. Even when relaxing, people often do 2 or 3 things at watch e.g watching tv while scrolling on their phone. Regular relaxation allows our bodies and minds to reset.

Try: Scheduling relaxation activities such as taking a bath, listening to music, reading, yoga, swimming.

#3. Good quality sleep: Getting enough sleep is essential to being able to manage stress. Aim to get between 7-9 hours per night.

Try: having a regular sleep routine (getting up at the same time each day), reduce caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon,

#4. Have things to look forward to: Life can start to feel monotonous if we don’t have things to get excited about in the future.

Try: booking a holiday, give yourself regular treats at the end of the week, have some goals to build towards, arrange fun things to do on your days off

#5. Meditate: Practicing a meditation technique can counter stress by eliciting the relaxation response in our central nervous system, as well as enabling us to detach from our stressful thoughts and feelings and make decisions more effectively.

Try: yoga, tai chi, meditation apps such as Headspace, Calm and Insight, guided imagery, deep breathing exercises.

#6. Connect to or create a good social support network: Humans are naturally social beings. Therefore, it is vitally important for our wellbeing and stress management that we feel supported and have people around us that care for us.

Try: Arrange a regular catch up with your friends and family, sign up to a fitness or activity class with someone else, book a holiday with others, call your loved ones after a difficult day.

#7. Reframe your situation: Sometimes we can get stuck in one perspective which can be focused in the negative. Focusing on alternative perspectives can improve our mood and energy levels.

Try: Consider alternative perspectives to your predicament. E.g. Instead of focusing on a present you cannot get for your loved one due to money difficulties, try to focus on other ways you can show your love to that person and acknowledge how important it is for you to have someone in your life you care about so much.

#8. Express your emotions: Allowing space to regularly express our emotions ensures that your emotions don’t bottle up and overwhelm you, instead allowing you the benefits of more emotional awareness and control.

Try: Journalling regularly, talking to friends and family about how you feel, draw or use art to express how you feel creatively, go to counselling.

#9. Laugh more: Research shows that laughing can significantly reduce stress hormones, boost the immune system and boost general resilience. Even smiling can improve your stress management.

Try: smiling and laughing more, watching comedies or ready funny books, smile at people around you.

#10. Get support: Resilience can also be built through effective counselling and psychological therapy. Therapy can give you the space to explore what gets in the way of you being able to bounce back from stress, and improve your ability to be resilient.

Try: Calling your EAP, Acacia Connection to arrange a counselling session to help manage stress and boost resilience.

THE WORKSHOP LAB:

Managing Stress Effectively Workshop

The Managing Stress Effectively workshop provides employees with all of the information they need to be able to identify and manage their stress before reaching a state of burnout. 

Participants will learn a range of coping strategies to help achieve instant calm and longer-term wellness.

Duration Options: 1 to 3 hours, Half Day, Full Day 
Click Here to Contact Us for more information

If you or someone close to you needs support, contact Acacia Connection for an appointment.

P: 1300 364 273 | Text or Live Chat: 0401 337 711 | W: acaciaconnection.com

"The safety and wellbeing of our clients and staff is always our top priority. Acacia EAP is currently operating under normal conditions. Due to the pandemic status of COVID-19, some locations may move from face-to-face counselling to secure video or phone. All counselling services are able to be provided 24/7, as always. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and act quickly on the advice of health authorities."