Rural Adversity Mental Health Program's tips for dealing with Christmas stress

It’s billed as a time of cheer and miracles, but for many, the festive season is anything but.

“Christmas can bring with it many additional financial stressors, relationship challenges, grief and isolation,” Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP) Coordinator Judy O’Mara said.

“For many people in rural areas, there is also the uncertain weather conditions and being on constant alert for bushfires.”

As part of RAMHP’s end of year wrap up, RAMHP Coordinators are asking people and communities to be mindful of those who might be experiencing mental health issues and to reach out, check in and ask: are you ok?

The team has also put together these 13 practical tips for looking after your own mental health and wellbeing as well as others'.

1.    Get away from normally busy routines and recharge – treat yourself to a sleep-in, read a new book, or go for a bushwalk or trip to the beach

2.    Take a break, switch off from technology and focus on celebrating with your family

3.    Connect with loved ones that you haven’t spoken with in a while. As well as immediate family, contact a more distant relative or an old friend you may have lost regular contact with

4.    Christmas is a reminder that not everyone will have shelter, warmth, food and love around them at this time of year. So take some time to be grateful for all that you have and share a little of this with others less fortunate. Even a smile can go a long way in a lonely person’s world

5.    The festive season is such a joyous occasion but it can be a tough time for some, where we remember and talk about our loved ones who are not at the Christmas table. It is so important that in all the excitement and celebration we take the time to listen and support family and friends, check in and ask “how are you doing?”

6.    We can sometimes experience high temperatures over the Christmas and New Year period. Water slides in the back yard, swimming in the river, lakes and swimming pools will be high on everyone’s agenda, as will opening gifts, drinking alcohol and eating wonderful fresh food. It is great to celebrate with family and friends but we need to remember that everything in moderation is the key to enjoying the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018

7.    Christmas is a chance to take time out, share food with others and hope that the coming year is even better than the last

8.    Christmas, for some families, can be a sad time of the year. Be mindful of others and reach out to people who need it

9.    Families can feel a lot of pressure at Christmas time, particularly when it comes to finances. Share the stress – share the cost

10.  Spend some time in nature; stop, breathe and appreciate

11. The festive season may see our alcohol intake increase. Try to have alcohol-free days, and when you are drinking, keep up your water intake and remember to eat

12.  During the ‘silly season’, it's especially important to keep the basic things in place to keep yourself healthy. Make sure you get enough sleep, drink lots of water and exercise. This solid foundation will go a long way to getting you through this often hectic time of year

13. It’s important to keep Christmas in perspective. The day is about spending time with people you love. In five years you aren’t going to remember who got what, or what meal was served, you’re going to remember the company and how they made you feel.

To find a RAMHP Coordinator in your local area or find about RAMHP,  visit ramhp.com.au or email ramhp@newcastle.edu.au

If you have any concerns about yourself or a loved one, please contact the NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511 (free call for landlines), the Alcohol and Other Drugs Information Service (ADIS) 1800 422 599 or call Lifeline on 13 11 14.