The Christmas, festive season can be a fantastic time of the year – tools down and time off work, an afternoon beer on the couch in front of the cricket, extra time with friends and family – but for many men, it can actually be really tough. The pressure to have a good time, feeling lonelier than ever, drinking more than you’d like, eating unhealthily, countless social events and busy schedules can be rough on your mental health. If you’ve already been struggling a bit, the festive season can sometimes intensify your difficulties. So, what can you do to get through this potentially challenging time of the year? We asked our team of experienced, senior psychologists to share one tip, a pearl of wisdom (full poetic license granted) that they have for helping men to manage the potential challenges of the festive season, bearing in mind there really is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to looking after your mental health and wellbeing. We encourage you to pick one or two that resonate with you and to give them a go, all in the name of taking action this festive season to be the best partner, father, son, brother or friend you can be.
Here’s what some of our psychologists had to say. You can check out our team of senior psychologists here.
1. There are five love languages: time, touch, tokens, tasks and talk. Do more than hand out Christmas gifts (tokens) to show your love to the people who matter. Spend time with someone, give them a hug (touch), sit and talk, or find out what task you can do that they’ll appreciate.
2. Pace yourself during the festive season:
• Keep at least two evenings a week free to rest and recoup.
• Keep up your exercise routine and/or get out into the natural environment (e.g., go for a walk, go for a surf, hit the gym).
• Pace yourself and keep some balance in your diet and alcohol use. Physical and mental wellbeing are linked, and you’ll enjoy the festive season more if you take care of both.
• Put in an appearance at a function, even if you only stay for half an hour. Make sure to connect with two people who matter (however brief) in that time. Social support, social connection is so important for positive mental health.
3. Loneliness can be horrible, made even more challenging by the pandemic. Reach out to someone you haven’t connected with in a while. Those in separation from their family/kids this Christmas – reach out to them if you can, or if you can’t, contact other family and friends. Give them a call, Facetime them, or shoot them a simple “Merry Christmas” text. If someone is on your mind, reach out.
4. The Christmas period can be stressful/busy – instead of focusing all your energy on this and getting ‘sucked in’, try to notice and appreciate the small moments of joy – laughter between friends, the Christmas wonder of a child, the smell of Christmas lunch cooking in the kitchen (or on the BBQ) – one moment at a time!
• Manage expectations and avoid trying to achieve perfection during the festive season. Again, try to focus on the moments of joy rather than being consumed with little details that really don’t matter.
• It’s okay to say no – think about your own energy and values when you decide what to attend or pay attention to. This includes phone calls, catch-ups and parties – it’s ok to not go to everything you are invited to.
5. It’s ok to like Christmas songs – own it! Even Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” or Wham’s “Last Christmas”. You do you!
6. Share the Christmas workload – it’s not your partner’s responsibility to buy your mum a gift! So, get shopping and wrapping. Your mum will love it (and hint… so will your partner)
7. “A fish doesn’t know it’s in water”. Life is full of challenges, ups and downs. Sometimes we can lack insight and perspective because “fish don’t know they’re in water”. If you’re feeling lost, confused, or stuck in a rut and need help making a change or moving forward with a career or life goal, then consider getting some help in the New Year – whether that be to go from not-so-good to good or from good to great. When spending time with family who can perhaps generate feelings that are uncomfortable at times, try and let yourself wait 2-3 minutes without passing judgement on anyone – such as thinking “I wish they would be…”, “why can’t they…” etc. When we give ourselves some space and time to delay judgement, we can actually gain easier acceptance of someone or something and feel more at ease.
Before you snap at the in-laws, S.T.O.P
• S – stop.
• T – take a breath.
• O – observe what’s going on without reacting and flying off the handle.
• P – proceed once you’re more calm and composed.
9. Stop comparing yourself to others, particularly the often falsely advertised ‘perfect’ lives you see on social media. The only one you should be comparing yourself to is you. Try to become better today than you were yesterday.
10. Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” ― Viktor E. Frankl. What attitude are you going into the festive season with?
11. We can’t choose our family but we can choose how we engage with them and how we react to them. Keep visits short and sweet if too much time with certain family is stressful. If a longer visit is scheduled then take breaks by going outside for some fresh air, hang out with the kids for a game or go for a walk/drive.
12. Try to lay off the booze. It’s okay to enjoy a Christmas drink but our ability to be polite (to the in-laws or our own extended family!) reduces after a few drinks and can turn the Christmas cheer into Christmas chaos. Try to have your first drink later in the day/evening and be organised with some nice non-alcoholic drinks to enjoy between alcoholic beverages to space them out.
13. Create a Christmas gratitude list by writing down everything you are grateful for this Christmas (a place to live, family to spend the time with (even if they get on your nerves), Christmas movies, Gingerbread cookies, your health etc).
14. If you are feeling down and don’t have plans for Christmas look into volunteering at your local soup kitchen or charity. They are often looking for extra hands to help serve or pack hampers at this time of year. Giving back to our community feels good and helps us remember to be grateful for what we do have.
15. If you’ve tried strategy after strategy to feel better about yourself, but things don’t seem to be getting any better, reach out for support.
• Lifeline Australia – 13 11 14 – free crisis support 24/7.
• MensLine – 1300 78 99 78 – free crisis-oriented phone and online counselling.
• Relationships Australia – 1300 364 277 – relationship support for individuals, families, and communities.
• Trusted GP for a chat, Mental Health Care Plan, and referral to Mantle or another psychology practice.
• Mantle Health
16. If you’re reading this and you have a man in your life who might be struggling and you’re not quite sure how to best support him, check out this valuable resource.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all from the entire team at Mantle.