After a long and tough year, we all want to enjoy the holiday season celebrating and spending time with friends and family.

So how can you juggle extra social activities while still looking after your physical and mental health?

In this article we look at:

  • ways you can balance the festivities with some good healthy habits
  • how to make the most of your sleep time
  • ways to look after not just your physical health, but your mental wellbeing

Be Healthy was created by VicHealth to provide helpful tips and advice on how you and your family can stay healthy. You can read more Be Healthy articles here.

We all want to enjoy the holiday season celebrating and spending time with friends and family.

But do you ever feel like society pressures us to drink and be merry – to the point of feeling unhealthy and in need of another holiday?

Here are some small changes to help you feel healthier, more resilient and connected as we start 2021.

Start the new year feeling your best with these top tips, and some thoughts from VicHealth CEO Dr Sandro Demaio.

1. Don’t be afraid to use your ‘free pass’

Sandro says there’s absolutely nothing wrong with opting out of some extra social gatherings if you need a break.

He said on ABC Radio Melbourne:

“The festive season can be a stressful time in any year, but I think probably your free pass this year needs to be foregoing a few pressures that we put on ourselves.”

“This holiday season should really be about prioritising yourself and prioritising the people you really need to see. Maybe your grandparents who have had to isolate or even grandchildren, nieces and nephews you haven’t been able to see.”

2. Add some colour to your plate

Serving salad at the dinner table

Pair your favourite foods with a pile of green, leafy veggies and colourful salads – aim to fill at least half your plate with veggies and salads.

3. Swap the cocktail for a mocktail

Try starting the party with some fresh and fruity mocktails , and if you choose to drink an alcohol product stick to no more than four standard drinks in a session. The less you drink the lower your harm from alcohol.

4. Get some decent sleep

You may have struggled with getting a good night’s sleep at times throughout this year for a range of reasons. Sandro has some easy-to-follow tips which can help you get quality sleep.

5. Avoid the spin

The holiday season is a time when food and drink companies make it harder for us to be healthy, with a proliferation of unhealthy products and marketing techniques that persuade us that we need them for our holiday season to be complete. Unhealthy products like chocolates, soft drinks and alcohol are often heavily discounted at this time of year making it easy to buy and consume more than you need. Before buying that second case of wine or box of chocolates have a think about whether you really want it or if you’re just buying it because it’s on special.

6. Reach out

If you know someone doing it tough, contact them to make sure they’re ok. This year has been a challenging one for everyone, and it can be helpful to have a few tips on hand to continue to look after your own and loved ones’ mental wellbeing.

7. Keep it moving and spend time outdoors

Being active is so good for our physical and mental health. Anything from a short walk to trying a new type of activity or sport – and the good thing is you get the health benefit regardless of how you look doing it. All that matters is giving yourself the opportunity to get active while having a bit of fun.

Outdoor spaces also allow us to hold holiday season catch ups in a slightly different format this year, said Sandro.

He said:

“Melbourne is just beautiful right now with the sun out, green outdoor spaces are safer from a COVID perspective. So rather than putting pressure on yourself to host groups at home, maybe meet in parks or catch up for a picnic.”

8. Make your resolution to quit

If you only make one resolution, choose this one. As soon as you stop smoking, your body begins to repair itself, and there’s amazing help available at

9. Digital detox!

Friends walking togethr on teh beach

Can you spend a few hours away from your phone, or even (gasp) a few days? Once that gnawing feeling of needing to live-stream your Christmas lunch passes you might find you enjoy things IRL a little more than glued to a screen. And given how much time we’ve spent on screens this year a digital detox could be the best gift this Christmas.

10. Book in some downtime

Self-care doesn’t always mean face masks and massages; it can simply mean saying no to activities when you’re feeling depleted. And making time each day to do things that make you feel good (e.g. cuddle a pet, get an early night or watch a movie).

Sandro agreed that it’s important to recharge after a stressful year.

“Be okay with not necessarily seeing everyone, but really invest in the people you want and need to see. That’s going to bring benefits to your health and their health as well,” he said.

“You can’t be everywhere and you can’t see everyone – be okay with that.”