Hayley Weel and Emily Boyle Christmas 2020

’tis the season to be jolly…and mindful

It’s okay if this Christmas feels a bit different and even if you’re a bit anxious about it.

It has been a year like no other and catching up with family again may be overwhelming for some.

That was one of the key messages from TDHS social worker Hayley Weel and dietitian Emily Boyle who also urged community members to concentrate on mindful eating.

Ms Weel said Christmas festivities would be the first time many extended families had come together for quite a while and with that came a bit of a shock to the system.

“We’ve all got very good at being on our own and enjoying our own company and now you can get the reverse of that, which is the shock of all coming together in bigger family groups again,” she said.

“People should be aware they may feel this way and they should have a plan to get away from the group and spend some time alone if they feel a bit overwhelmed.

“Christmas can be full on and we’re a bit out of practise at the moment, so it really could be a bit of a shock to the system.”

Ms Weel said Christmas could always be a difficult and lonely time for people already isolated or who may have lost a loved one in the past 12 months, for example.

Ms Boyle said 2020 had been so stressful that the last thing community members needed was to stress about food and drink.

“It’s a good time to practise eating mindfully, and letting go of strict food rules and guilt that we sometimes associate with eating certain foods,” she said.

“Christmas is a time of year to spend with loved ones and enjoy delicious, festive foods and drinks. It’s not only important across the holiday season, but all the time, to focus on mindful eating. Eat slowly, take in the textures, the smells, the flavour of the food – that’s really important.

“We wouldn’t recommend overdoing alcohol for many reasons, but enjoy a drink if you want to.”

Ms Weel said everyone should be mindful when they drink alcohol and the reason why.

“If it’s to celebrate and enjoy a meal with your family and friends that’s great, but if it’s a coping mechanism for trying to deal with your mental wellbeing or how you are feeling emotionally then that’s not ideal,” she said.

“While it can be a wonderful and festive occasion, Christmas can also be very stressful for people. In some cases the financial cost of Christmas causes stress, but just remember the gift of giving is what is important, not the net worth of the presents.

“And often there is one family member guilty of putting so much pressure on themselves about the Christmas meal and festivities that they can forget to enjoy the occasion themselves.

“So some general advice is to take a step back if you need to, let other members of the family help, make things a bit simpler and take time to enjoy the occasion.

“Take some time to stop and think ‘this is a time of year to be joyful, it’s not a time to add more stress to our lives’.”

Ms Boyle reminded everyone to be extra cautious with food safety over the Christmas period and to stay hydrated, keep up the COVID-19 precautions and enjoy the break.

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