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Managing Holiday Season Stress

As the holiday season approaches, it’s a time of celebration and connection, but it can also bring stress and overwhelm. For business owners in Aotearoa, balancing work and festivities can be a challenging juggle. In this article, we’ll explore strategies that draw from psychology to help you cope with holiday season stress and make the most of this special time in our beautiful country.

Keeping an Eye on Booze

The holiday season often involves gatherings where alcohol flows freely. While it’s essential to enjoy the festivities, it’s equally crucial to monitor your alcohol consumption. Alcohol impacts the brain by making thoughts more “sticky” due to its effects on memory and cognition. When you drink alcohol, it can impair your ability to process information effectively and can lead to difficulties in forming and retrieving memories. This “stickiness” can result in persistent and intrusive thoughts, which can contribute to heightened anxiety, and impaired decision-making. It’s important to recognise that excessive alcohol use can exacerbate these challenges and have long-term consequences for mental well-being. It’s also important to remember that alcohol can increase emotional sensitivity.

Tip: To mitigate this, consider alternating alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic options to stay hydrated and reduce overall alcohol intake. This way, you can enjoy the festivities without feeling emotionally drained the next day.

Keeping Track of Sleep and Maintaining Regularity

Irregular sleep patterns can wreak havoc on your mood, energy levels, and overall mental wellness. Your brain needs good, regular sleep to work its best. When you don’t sleep enough or have an irregular sleep routine, it can make you feel grumpy, sad, or stressed. Your thinking can become foggy, making it harder to concentrate and make good decisions. Amidst the holiday chaos, prioritise a consistent sleep schedule.

Tip: Create a bedtime routine that fosters relaxation and embraces our beautiful summer evenings. This could include activities like reading a book, practicing meditation, or taking a warm bath before bedtime. Or consider stargazing or simply enjoying the gentle breeze before settling in for a good night’s sleep.

Keeping Clear Boundaries

One of the most challenging aspects of the holiday season is setting and maintaining clear boundaries. It’s essential to remember that it’s okay to say “no” to invitations, events, or excessive gift-giving that may negatively impact your mental well-being.

Tip: Prioritise self-care, but do not isolate yourself. You can still nurture meaningful connections with loved ones without overextending yourself. Find a balance between participating in festivities and preserving your mental health. Choose events that align with your values and energy levels.

Keeping Connections Alive

Setting boundaries doesn’t mean isolating yourself. While it’s essential to protect your mental well-being, remember that the holiday season can be lonely for some. When you talk, share, and spend time with others, it makes you feel good inside. It’s like having a support team that helps you when things are tough, and it also makes you feel better about yourself. Being connected with others can help you stay strong and handle problems better, like a superhero with their team. So, having friends and family around is like having your own superpower for feeling good and dealing with life’s challenges.

Tip: Make an extra effort to reach out and connect with others. Whether through a simple phone call, video chat, or, picnics and beach days, maintaining connections is crucial for your emotional health.

Keeping Moving

New Zealand’s diverse landscapes offer plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities during the holidays. When you engage in physical activity, like going for a walk, jogging, or dancing, your brain releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins are like natural mood boosters. They make you feel happier, less stressed, and more relaxed. Regular movement can also help you sleep better, reduce anxiety, and improve your overall mental well-being. So, moving your body can lift your spirits and make you feel better emotionally.

Tip: Explore our beautiful country by going on hikes, swimming in lakes or rivers, or taking beach walks. Share these experiences with loved ones to strengthen your connections.

Learning from Your Distress

If you find yourself becoming distressed during the holiday season, take the opportunity to observe patterns and triggers. Learning from distress can lead to increased resilience, improved problem-solving skills, and a better understanding of yourself and your emotions, ultimately helping you navigate future challenges with greater wisdom and strength. Pay attention to your urges and actions, and consider seeking support if needed.

Keeping an Eye on the Bigger Picture

Remember that the essence of the holiday period lies in celebrating togetherness, not in competing for the most extravagant decorations or gifts.

Tip: Focus your time and energy on what truly matters – the meaningful connections, shared laughter, and cherished moments with loved ones. Ditch the unnecessary stressors and embrace the true spirit of the season.

Keeping Yourself in Mind

Amidst the pressure to give, host, and create magical moments for others, do not forget to prioritise yourself. You deserve attention and self-care too.

Tip: Whether it’s treating yourself to a special gift or ensuring someone else does, plan time for self-care this Christmas. It’s not selfish; it’s necessary for your well-being.

Scheduling Rest Time

As the year draws to a close, make a conscious effort to schedule time for reflection. Amidst the hustle and bustle, allocate moments to rest, put your feet up, and celebrate your resilience.

Tip: Create a nice space where you can unwind, read a book, or simply enjoy some quiet time. Use this time to reflect on your achievements and set intentions for the upcoming year.

Keep Having Fun

Play is a fundamental need, regardless of age. When you engage in play, whether it’s through games, hobbies, or fun activities, it can boost your mood, reduce stress, and increase feelings of happiness. Play allows you to relax, be creative, and have a break from daily worries. It can also improve your cognitive skills, problem-solving abilities, and social connections when you play with others. Think of play as a mental and emotional recharge, like a mini-vacation for your mind, which ultimately contributes to a more positive and balanced outlook on life

Tip: Join the kids in building sandcastles at the beach, play beach cricket, or simply enjoy the simplicity of a picnic. Embrace the spirit of fun and adventure

The holiday season in Aotearoa is a time of beauty and connection. By applying these psychologically-informed strategies, you can navigate holiday season stress, and make the most of this special time. Prioritise well-being, celebrate our natural treasures, and enjoy the true essence of a Kiwi summer holiday. Meri Kirihimete!


By Ampara Bouwens

Ampara is an experienced Clinical Psychologist with over 19 years of experience, providing mental health services in private, governmental, and corporate sectors. She specialises in complex trauma, personality disorders, and other severe disorders, using a compassionate and non-judgmental approach to help clients regain control and autonomy over their lives. Since moving to New Zealand in 2016, Ampara has been running a successful private practice, offering personalised and effective treatment to individuals seeking to improve their mental health and well-being. Ampara is also the clinical lead and founder of MindGarage – a leading provider of psychological services, treatment, and assessment, with a team of skilled therapists who provide high-quality, personalised treatment via the same compassionate, non-judgmental approach. The MindGarage team takes a holistic approach to therapy, considering all aspects of a client’s life and offering tailor-made services to meet individual needs. MindGarage believes in empowering clients with the skills and knowledge needed to make positive changes in their lives, promoting long-term mental and emotional health.

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