Shutting down over the festive season? The holidays are meant to be a happy and relaxing time when we all down tools for a well-earned break. But for many, the silly season causes increased stress and anxiety, while employees in the transport and construction industries may find it difficult to wind down after the most demanding period of the year.
“The festive period can be challenging for many people,” says Jason Banks, Head of Partnerships at TIACS (This Is A Conversation Starter), a charity and Coates Foundation partner that provides free mental health support for truckies, tradies, rural and blue collar workers, as well as those who care about them.
Jason Banks, Head of Partnerships at TIACS
“Relationships are the number one reason why people call TIACS throughout the year. We see a spike in calls post-Father’s Day because single dads haven't been able to see their kids, and Christmas is no different. People may be feeling isolated during this time, especially in situations where families are in split households. Other people may be grieving and it’s the first time they’re having Christmas without their loved one.”
Financial stress is the second most common reason why people reach out to TIACS – another pressure that’s exacerbated at Christmas.
“It’s been a tough 12 months, with cost of living pressures, rising mortgage rates and fuel prices going through the roof. Many people want to give, or travel to see family, then the credit card debt starts to come in post-Christmas,” says Jason. “Often financial troubles can impact relationships too, for example if people can’t afford to travel and see family.”
As the holiday season approaches, here are some tips to help you switch off and manage stress.
In the midst of all the holiday chaos, take time to look after yourself to help reduce stress and anxiety. “Whether that's just going for a walk, putting the headphones in and doing some meditation, or going to a yoga class, find different things to help alleviate those stresses,” says Jason.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember you don’t have to see everyone or say yes to every invite. “You can't support people to fill their own cup if your cup's not full, so ask yourself ‘How do I fill my own cup up first?’. Have a plan of attack before you go into the festive season of how you're going to manage your own stress,” he says.
The holidays are an indulgent time, but alcohol can contribute to stress, anxiety and depression. “At this time of year, people often feel they need to have a drink because they’re in a social environment,” says Jason.
He suggests taking inspiration from Shanna Whan, founder of Sober in the Country, a grassroots not-for-profit organisation that helps people in country Australia deal with alcohol. “They're not against alcohol, but their simple message is that it’s #OK2SAYNO. So remember, it’s OK to say no or look for other options to still be social or to manage your stress, such as zero alcohol beer,” Jason says.
The festive season can be the most expensive time of the year. To help reduce the burden on your wallet, set a budget for gifts, holidays and social gatherings.
“From Black Friday sales to Boxing Day sales, it’s easy to get caught in the credit card trap, but I think people have just got to ask themselves, ‘Do I actually need that?’. The stress caused by overspending will outweigh those feel-good moments when you’re shopping online or the delivery arrives, so focus on what it will look like come January and beyond if you indulge now,” says Jason.
It’s important to support those around you and ask for help yourself if you’re struggling. “One thing we preach at TIACS is to reach out to your support crew. If you're not traveling too well, reach out to those people within your circle that you can trust and confide in. I've got my own support crew of five people who are in my phone. What I talk to my wife about, I might not talk to my best mate about, and what I talk to my best mate about, I might not talk about to my wife.
“If that’s exhausted, then reach out to services like TIACS or myriad other organisations, such as Lifeline for crisis care. A lot of the time, people just need to have a chat,” says Jason.
If your business shuts down over the holiday period, keep in touch with workmates who you think may be struggling. “There's nothing wrong with just sending a text message or making a call. They might not pick up, but just leave a message to say, ‘Hey, just checking in to make sure you're OK. Is there anything I can do?’,” says Jason.
“A lot of people, especially subcontractors, are unsure whether or not they're going to have work in the new year. If you're an employer and you've got subbies working for you, give them some certainty around work,” says Jason. “Subcontractors don't have access to company EAPs (Employee Assistance Programs), and that's where TIACS comes in – we’re there to support the blue collar industry and those that care about them with free mental health support.”
Be aware of your holiday triggers, such as family tension or loneliness, so you can seek support before they lead to a meltdown. “If you recognise that it’s going to be a tough time for you, have a mental healthcare plan in place ahead of time,” says Jason. “Reach out to TIACS in the next couple of weeks and have a chat to a counsellor about what you’re expecting to go through over the next period. Make a preventative plan, rather than doing something after the situation has deteriorated.”
For more information and resources about mental health and wellbeing, visit tiacs.org
TIACS will be closed 28-30 December and 1 January to give their counsellors a well-earned break after a big year, but other mental health support lines are available 24/7, including Lifelife and Beyond Blue.
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