The holiday period can be a frenetic time, with heightened family drama and events, our own busy salon period and New Year’s resolutions bearing down on us to make rapid life improvements instantly. We spoke to ambassador, psychology graduate and former Miss Universe Monika Radulovic about how to counter these stresses.

We’re used to the idea of Christmas cheer, and with festive gifts, events and decorations, it’s impossible to avoid. More difficult to manage is the idea of Christmas calm, and fighting feelings of stress, anxiety and self-doubt when it comes to this time of the year.

Between the stages of worldwide pageants, the beaches of the hyper-competitive TV show Australian Survivor, or her work as a successful ambassador and personality, Monika Radulovic is well acquainted with stressful situations, but her background in psychology and expertise in wellness allows her to excel in these environments and in daily stressful situations, especially during the more intense holiday season. She helped us delve into why Christmas can be a crazy time on a personal level for many – not to mention the busy salon schedules that are added on top of these festivities – and how to combat the stress for improved mental health.

“When it comes to Christmas, as we all like to think every year, ‘I’ll start planning ahead earlier’, but we all tend to leave it to the last minute, and then there is so much to do. There is a lot of pressure to think about so many family members, what to give people, or even if you don’t get along with people in your family, there is such a huge array of reasons why Christmas can be stressful for all of us for different reasons,” Monika shared. “It’s about taking time to slow down and remember why Christmas is important, which is spending time with your loved ones.”

“The first thing is to change your mindset – instead of focusing on what’s stressful about it, which is the little bits and pieces that don’t really matter, you have to take a step back and remember what’s important and what Christmas is about, which is spending time with your family and remembering what you’re grateful for,” she continued.

Beyond these positive thoughts, there are practical steps that can help with the endeavor. Monika recommends taking a step back to breathe properly, which has a physical effect on your mental health.

“When we’re stressed we breathe really shallow breaths from our chests, whereas if we take a few deep breaths from your belly, in and out through your nose, that has a physiological response on the body that calms the nerve system down and can help alleviate the stress,” she explained.

“Another step is that supplementation is important to help your body and immune system when it comes to stress,” she added. “I take HIVITA vitamins, which is my go-to vitamin to alleviate fatigue, reduce stress and improve mood, which all combine to help when it comes to a stressful situation.”

An additional aid is that of meditation, and it doesn’t have to be a scary or all-consuming process. Monika does 20 minutes of meditation in the morning and optimally 20 minutes in the afternoon, but advises that anything that is manageable, even if it’s just five minutes of breathing and meditation, can make all the difference.

“Meditation is very important,” she said. “I started meditating when I was crowned Miss Universe Australia and I knew I was going into international finals. That was one of the catalysts that started me on my health and wellness journey because I wanted to make it a holistic experience and focus on all the facets of my health, not just physical. Mental health and meditation were important in what was a hugely stressful situation for me.

Monika suggests apps such as One Giant Mind, which can coach users on the art of meditation and focusing on a mantra in simple and easy to learn ways, starting the user on a journey with meditation that is manageable and often a game-changer when it comes to mental health.

This practice can be one of your New Year’s resolutions, as we often find things that we are currently dissatisfied with in our lives and try to find ways in which we can improve our mental and physical health, once it hits January first. Monika has her own tips on the resolutions we can focus on to aid mental health, and the effective ways to actually achieve those resolutions without feeling bad about our failures around January 15.

“It’s important to start small when it comes to resolutions, and I believe it all begins from within,” she said. “You have to make sure you’re happy and content with yourself before you can make any big changes in your life. At the end of the day happiness starts from within, as cheesy as it sounds it’s completely true, you’re not going to find true happiness searching for external validation.”

“What I do try to do for myself as a young woman in the entertainment industry, is that I try to focus on what makes me special, what I am grateful for about myself and the skills I bring to the table rather than trying to compare myself to so many around me in the same space,” she added. “I know a lot of us can relate to that, it’s so easy to look on social media and feel less than. It’s very important to try stop the comparison and just switching it off when you’re triggered by someone on TV or a magazine or Instagram and focus on yourself and what makes you feel special and what you’re grateful for. That’s made all the difference for me.”

These goals are admirable but the implementation of them is also vital – as Monika suggests, start small and cut yourself some slack in your journey towards personal growth.

“Don’t put too much pressure on yourself with these resolutions, make it a simple goal, say that you want to be more active, rather than making the resolution that you need to spend every day at the gym,” she said. “Make the resolution that you’ll take a 5 minute walk every day, then you’ll already feel like you’ve accomplished something, which will give you the confidence to further that goal and make it a larger one.”

“To be as healthy as we can be in our mental health is based on being kind to ourselves, so take smaller steps so you’re not upset with yourself for not achieving things. Have small goals, which all contribute to the large goals that you do make in your life.”

So take that deep breath, put aside a few minutes for meditation, focus on self care and remember what’s important – wise words to live by this holiday season, in 2019 and beyond.