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Your Christmas mental health questions answered

Blog post | 20 Dec 2022

Not feeling great this Christmas? You’re not alone. healthdirect reached out to you on its Instagram account to find out what mental health questions you have right now. Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nirvana Luckraj, answered them.

My son is upset that he doesn't get to see his dad over the holidays, what can I do to support him?

“As a concerned parent, encouraging your child to talk about what’s happening in their life, and taking an active interest in your child, is support in itself. You can also help to improve your child’s mental health by ensuring your child gets enough sleep, eats well and exercises regularly.” Read more on coping with divorce or break up and your child’s mental health.

I don't really want to drink anymore. Do you have any tips for dealing with this?

“Socialising without drinking alcohol can hugely benefit your physical and mental health. Recognise what triggers you to drink, and work to avoid these where you can. Try socialising more often with friends who don’t drink. Consider avoiding parties where it may be difficult for you to say no to a drink. If you’re trying to cut down, set yourself a drink limit and stick to it.” Learn more about managing your alcohol intake and socialising without any alcohol.

I'm stressed and overwhelmed with how much money I’ve been spending on Christmas. Help!

“Financial stress can affect us all and impact our health and relationships. This can even lead to depression and anxiety. Be honest with those impacted by the situation and draw up a budget, putting aside money for bills and essentials first. Stay on top of your emotions by writing down your worries to help you work out which issues to tackle first. It’s important not to bottle up your stress and deal with it alone.” Understand how financial stress can affect your health.

I'm having a lot of trouble sleeping because I'm worrying. How can I fix this?

“Recognising you’re not getting enough sleep and wanting to do something about it are important steps towards improving your overall health. Make your bedroom comfortable, quiet and dark. Avoid using your computer or phone just before bedtime. Checking the time can heighten your anxiety about not sleeping. If possible, take the clock out of your room. Also, avoid alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes that can lead to poor sleep quality.” Get more tips for a good night’s sleep.

Is it normal to not want to spend a lot of time with other people?

“Not everyone’s a party animal. We’re all different in our desire for social interactions. If you develop symptoms of anxiety in social situations to the extent that they stop you from participating in social events, this could be a sign of social anxiety disorder. Symptoms could include stammering when speaking, increased heartbeat, sweating and trembling in social situations. Social anxiety disorder can be treated with psychological therapy, and you can get help through your GP.” Find out more about treating social anxiety.

Not sure what to do next?

If you or someone you know is finding it difficult to manage mental health issues, try healthdirect’s Symptom Checker and get advice on when to seek professional help. The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self-care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

My family Christmases always end up in drama. Any tips on how to stay sane?

“Christmas comes with high expectations of happy families enjoying luxurious celebrations and gifts. However, not all of us are able to live up to these ideals and we should set realistic expectations. Drinking in moderation can help you to cope better. Avoid known triggers that could start arguments and consider putting aside ongoing adult conflicts. Getting enough sleep and exercising can also help you cope with stress.” Keep a healthy body and mind this Christmas.

How can I manage being in large, crowded settings when I'm anxious about COVID-19?

“Your risk of getting infected with COVID-19 increases when you’re indoors and don’t wear a face mask. Try to catch up with friends and family outdoors where possible and ensure you’re up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations. Practise good hand hygiene by washing your hands frequently, covering your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze, and cleaning surfaces you use often.” Continue to practise COVID-safe behaviour this summer.

Any tips on dealing with the guilt that comes with overindulging?

“We all indulge at some time, and having the occasional treat is perfectly fine. It’s important to eat a balanced diet and to resume this after overindulging. Stop any negative self-talk by replacing guilt with more helpful and positive thoughts.” Learn more about positive self-talk and staying on track.

I'm on a low dose of antidepressants but I'm feeling more anxious. What should I do?

“Ongoing stressful situations, such as problems at work, grief or relationship breakdowns, can contribute to continuing symptoms of anxiety. Your doctor may start you on low doses of medication to see how you respond. They may gradually increase the dose as needed. Speak to your doctor if you feel you’re not responding well to prescribed medication. Lifestyle measures, combined with medication, can also help manage symptoms. This includes exercising regularly, limiting alcoholic drinking, getting enough sleep and using relaxation techniques such as mindfulness and meditation.” Learn more about when to see your doctor and looking after yourself.

I think my daughter may have an eating disorder and I'm worried about her at social events.

“It is not always easy to tell if someone has an eating disorder, since they may try to hide it because of shame or guilt. Some behaviours associated with eating disorders include binge eating, purging, excessive exercise, social withdrawal and more focus on body shape and weight. If your daughter has these symptoms, it’s important that she sees a doctor soon. Treatment for eating disorders should start as early as possible to avoid long-term health problems. Family support is hugely beneficial during any treatment too.” Understand what your child is going through.

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