As the countdown begins to the end of the year and our wheels begin to spin more slowly it is good to take a moment to think about psychologically preparing for the silly season. Below are three tips to help take off the stressful edge.


  1. Mindfulness

Holidays can be stressful and we may have a constant stream of thoughts going through our head trying to keep ahead of the game “have I got all of the ingredients for that salad?”, “how long will it take to get to the in-laws?”, “what if the kids hate their present”. Mindfulness is the practice of bringing our attention to something in the present moment in a curious, non-judgmental way. It can help us take a break from running on auto-pilot as we rush from one social engagement to the next, check in with ourselves and reconnect to the present. One way of practicing mindfulness is by paying attention to our breath. Not trying to control our breath, but just noticing it and the sensations in our body as it passes in and out of our body. If your mind wanders back to the millions of things on your to-do list, congratulate yourself for noticing this and bring your attention back to your breath. This can break our constant thought stream, anchor us to the present and allow us to refocus on what is important.


  1. Boundaries

Holiday season can for some bring about additional stressors with seeing family and friends that we may have rocky or complicated relationships with. This could be anything from differences in political and religious beliefs, to relationships that have been harmful or broken down. Preparing in advance on what your boundaries are can help you go into those interactions more confidently and in control. This may include deciding if there are certain sensitive topics that you do not want to talk about with particular people and practicing what your response will be “I would rather not talk about that, can you tell me about X instead”. It could also include enlisting an ally in advance to help out in a situation you feel uncomfortable in, and preparing an exit strategy if things are not turning out well.


  1. Planned breaks

At the end of the year heading into the holidays we are often more fatigued, and stressed from the cumulative toll of work. Lack of sleep can affect our mood and ability to manage our emotions as well as make it difficult to concentrate on new as well as routine tasks. Conversely, sleep duration and sleep quality have been found to be associated with higher health and wellbeing over vacations. Although we don’t know whether this is because longer and better sleep causes increase our wellbeing, or whether increased wellbeing causes better sleep, this is something to pay attention to. Keeping a consistent sleep routine including consistent sleep and wake up times will help with maintaining good quality sleep. Also, trying not to cram in too many activities at the expense of sleep and planning in breaks where you can throughout the holiday period will set you up well. These could range from short pit-stops in the car to planning free time on allocated days to relax, unwind and savour the moment.

Kristen Willis

Learning and Development Manager – Behaviour Support,

BA(Psych)(Hons), MPsych(Clinical)

Kristen is a clinical psychologist with significant experience working with complex clients with interactions with multiple service systems. Her expertise is in positive behaviour support, cognitive behaviour therapy, and dialectical behaviour therapy including adapted forms for clients with intellectual disabilities. Kristen is passionate about the translation of research into practice and making information and interventions accessible for clients, clinicians, families, and providers. She is interested in creating systemic change to improve outcomes for clients through the development of training, policy, practice and governance frameworks. Prior to joining ORS, Kristen implemented a number of initiatives to successfully reduce restrictive practices within a non-government organisation including through training specialist behaviour support practitioners and frontline leaders. Kristen takes a curious, collaborative and person-centred approach when working with individuals and teams.