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How to cope with Christmas

'Tis the season to be jolly, but Christmas might be far from jolly for you. It’s the time when we might need coping skills more than any other time.

Here are some tips on how to get through it all in the best possible shape.

  1. Make a budget and stick to it. You can still have a nice time without cracking the credit card.
  2. If there are stressful, 'prickly' family occasions you don't absolutely have to go to, don't! And ...
  3. ... it might be hard to say no, but you can do it (see How to say NO).
  4. If you do decide to go to a difficult family get-together, be as positive as you can about it. Don’t nag and whinge at yourself – you’ll get through it, and who knows, you might even enjoy it.
  5. Be proactive - prepare by using good self-talk leading up to the event.
    For example, "I know Uncle Fred might bring up that old button-pusher, but I can cope, I'll ignore it. The more he pushes it, the more I'll ignore it. I'll keep my cool. It's only for a few hours anyway."
  6. Don't drink too much. You know this can be disastrous (no matter how stressed, happy or unhappy you are), and you might say things you normally wouldn’t.
  7. Don't react when someone gets under your skin or things get prickly - respond. Think before you speak or act. Know what pushes your buttons and decide not to let your buttons get pushed.
  8. Take deep breaths in stressful times. Taking a couple of deep breaths helps you to respond to situations rather than react. It gives you time to come up with a strategy – something to say or do that won't make things worse. Let it go
  9. If the Holidays are making you feel sad or downhearted, for example, because it reminds you of a lost loved one, accept that this kind of grief and loss is normal. Tell yourself, "I can cope, and this will pass". Honour the memory of your loved one. Distract yourself as best you can with books, movies or the company of friends. If the loss is a child, consider buying a gift appropriate for a child of the age your child would have been now and put it under the community tree.
  10. Don't feel guilty because you can't provide everything for your family that you think will make them happy. Lots of people feel guilty because they can't buy expensive toys or presents or have a holiday trip. Guilt is a destructive emotion and just makes you feel bad.
  11. Remind yourself (and your family?) about what Christmas is really about – celebrating the life of a person who believed in peace and love. Are these gifts more precious than a computer game?
  12. Don't wear yourself out – don't beat yourself up. Be kind to yourself – take it slowly – ease your foot off the gas pedal.
  13. Finally, if things go wrong and you can't get to a counsellor – there's always Lifeline or any one of the wonderful organisations that provide telephone and practical assistance over the Holidays.

Christmas and New Year greetings. I hope it’s a happy time for you or at least you get through in reasonable shape. My thoughts are with you.

Lifeline Australia - 13 11 14
Mensline Australia - 1300 78 99 78
Beyondblue - 1300 224 636
Suicideline Victoria - 1300 651 251
Suicide Call Back Service - 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline - 1800 551 800
Griefline Community and Family Services - 1300 845 745