December is here, and with it, festive celebrations. For many of us, the end of the year is a time for celebration and joy. But for others it can be a time of heightened stress and anxiety, with building expectations from family and friends, high associated costs, and an increase in food and alcohol consumption. With an overwhelming number of commitments, many of us may also forget to check in with ourselves, practice self-care and nurture our wellbeing.
Acacia has developed a Holiday Handbook to support you and your loved ones this holiday season. Our Handbook provides you with advice on how to better manage your money, information on holiday kindness, guidance on feelings of loneliness, resilience strategies, and tips on supporting yourself and your family through the season.
Below are snippets of the Holiday Handbook – download all 16 pages at the bottom of this page for all the tips and strategies you need this December.
Despite the usual depictions of the festive season, the holidays can be a very stressful time of year. This end of year might mean complex social interactions with family or relatives who you might not want to see. There may be expectations, or at least perceived expectations, for the ‘perfect celebration’, complete with the perfect gift and perhaps the most important meal of the year.
List what you need and get it sorted early. This might include shopping, food, decorations, or even travel arrangements. Make it as detailed as possible, so you can prioritise. What can be done now? What’s essential?
Allow plenty of time; tasks often take a third longer than we think they will! Do not overestimate how much you can achieve the day or night before.
Delegate certain tasks to other family members to reduce your workload.
Keep your list for next year; it’ll need updating, but it will give you a good starting point.
Know when to stop! Decide when to stop preparations and when to start relaxing and enjoying the holidays. Try to stick to this goal, even if it is in the late afternoon or the night before. Remember the holidays are for you to enjoy too.
Set a budget and stick to it. Consider starting a holiday season savings account early and contribute small amounts regularly. Avoid using credit cards or Buy Now, Pay Later systems, as they make it easy to forget how much you’ve bought and can cause you to spend more than you think. Shop online – it can save time and money.
Ask your friends and family if gifts are necessary. You may be surprised to learn others are relieved at not having to buy gifts too.
Set Limits & Plan Ahead
Make lists of the things you need to buy and the amount you wish to spend, and try to stick to it. Having lists of what presents, decorations, and food you need to purchase can help you plan your spending and keep you on track. Maintain a running total of costs to help keep an eye on spending.
Talk to others about their wants and needs. While it can feel good buying gifts for others, some people may want a service, such as help in their garden, or a donation on their behalf.
Plan for the year. Buying gifts in the sales throughout the year or using a lay-by service can help you spread the budget. Travel and accommodation prices can dramatically increase towards the holidays, so book ahead if possible.
Finding online discounts, offers, and deals for your gifts will not only save time, but also can be cheaper. Look for online sales or organisations that offer sign up deals. Saving any rewards points for the holidays, if you have them, can be a good plan too.
Find Clarity & Seek Support
Understand the expectations and needs of your loved ones. It can help you know where to set spending limits. Having an open conversation is a way of working towards this.
Counselling can help you set goals, work with boundaries, and talk about the stress that can come with holiday spending. If you are stressed, you may not be in a good frame of mind to plan, organise, or negotiate.
We have specialist clinicians available to support you in getting the most out of your holiday time. We also have Financial Coaches that can help with budgeting and planning.
Many people feel they don’t have the time or the money to carry out self-care during the holiday season; however, research has discovered an easy, free, and effective stress management technique that most of us already practice – simply, the Act of Kindness.
The Australian Kindness Movement defines an Act of Kindness as a spontaneous gesture of goodwill towards someone or something.
With the ‘festive spirit’ encouraging an attitude of generosity and care for others, kindness and the holidays are often seen as one and the same; however, research has found practicing kindness can significantly reduce your stress levels, both physically and mentally benefiting yourself and others around you.
Multiple studies have discovered that being kind to others not only makes the recipient feel good, but it can actually improve the giver’s stress levels, mental health, emotional wellbeing, and physical health. In addition, acts of kindness are infectious in communities and can result in a ‘kindness chain reaction’.
Neurobiological studies have found that, when a human being performs an act of kindness, the brain produces the neurochemicals known as the ‘Happiness Trifecta’: Oxytocin, Dopamine, and Serotonin. These neurochemicals send happiness boosts around our body.
Not only does it feel good, the release of these hormones balances your serotonin levels, lowers your blood pressure and cortisol levels, and blocks pain signals to the brain. This can improve cardiac health, circulation, and digestive health, decrease symptoms of depression and stress, and even increase life expectancy!
The holiday season is generally promoted as a time of connection with loved ones, including family and friends. For many people though, this time creates feelings of sadness. They may be away from the loved ones, either by choice or by situation. They may feel anxious about the social commitments that come with the festive season. They may just have feelings of loneliness in the midst of celebrating.
For those who feel this sense of loneliness, holidays can be a time of additional stress. This can be even more noticeable on particular days, such as Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. While it is difficult to have these feelings on these days, it is normal to feel this way.
Although some feelings of loneliness may still hang around, taking care of yourself can help you to generally feel better and enjoy your time to yourself.
For many of us, the holidays can be a time of joy, excitement, family connection, and love and kindness; however, despite the joys that the festive season can bring, it can be a notoriously difficult time for people.
Whether it’s financial pressures, family dynamics, increased alcohol and food consumption, or reminders of lost loved ones, the festive season can lead to increased stress levels. Left unchecked, this stress can negatively impact our mental and physical health.
You can protect your health and wellbeing during the holidays by boosting your resilience. Studies have shown that resilience-building is highly effective in reducing the impacts of stress and protecting general mental health. Knowing what resilience is and how to build it can help you beat this festive season. You might like to:
- Finally finish that good book
- Try the new local café
- Plan to complete a personal project
- Discover a new hobby
You can then track your progress each day. Noticing that you are spending your time doing things which boost your positivity or just are fun, will be helpful in taking your thoughts away from feeling lonely.