The holiday season is upon us and in many ways it feels the same as ever: Long dark nights are made brighter with festive light displays; classic carols are in rotation on the radio; and young children are eagerly making wish lists and doing their best to ensure they stay on the ‘nice’ list.
But, in other ways, the holidays look quite different than in years past. Much of the shopping, visits, faith gatherings and office parties have moved online, and trips have been postponed. Many people are planning a different kind of celebration in order to continue maintaining physical distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
At the same time, people throughout our region have lost their homes from devastating floods and fires this year and many are facing a drastically different holiday season.
The holidays can be emotionally charged and stressful at the best of times but, these days, it feels more important than ever to take care of yourself and your mental health.
10 tips to manage stress and make the most of this holiday season
1. Help others – volunteer
Volunteering your time or doing something to help others is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden friendships. For example, consider dropping off a meal at a friend's home or deliver baked goods to a neighbour during the holidays – particularly for those who may be alone.
2. Stick to a budget
Avoid overspending to compensate for scaled-back celebrations or spending time with loved ones. Make a budget and stick to it.
3. Maintain healthy habits
Avoid overindulging in food, and keep up exercise routines as much as possible. Although drinks may be flowing over the holidays, it’s important to moderate alcohol, which can have a negative impact on mood and affect your motivation around healthy habits like exercise. Getting enough sleep is also important for physical and mental health.
4. Practice gratitude
Although the holidays may look different this year, there are still things to be grateful for. Look out the window and take the time to appreciate the colours. Notice the wind in the trees. Indulge your sense of wonder in this world. There is strong evidence that documenting the things you are grateful for can lift your mood.
5. Be intentional about how you spend your time
Devote time to being intentionally present by taking deep breaths, observing your surroundings and being in the moment. Take a break from worrying or focusing too much on challenges. Moderate screen time; take a break from the constant news cycle and social media, and avoid binge watching TV.
6. Spread positivity
Although we are wearing masks in public that hide our smiles, we can still share good old fashioned greetings. A chipper word or two creates community and reduces isolation. “Hello,” “Hi,” “Good morning,” “After you,” and “Happy holidays!” help us feel connected.
7. Reach out if you are feeling lonely or sad
Talk to a friend or family member – try reaching out with a text, a call or a video chat. Schedule an outdoor activity with loved ones – you can go for a walk, bike ride or snow shoe outdoors. Or engage in online community, religious or other social events, support groups, social media or virtual events that can provide support and companionship.
8. Don’t romanticize holidays past
The holiday season brings expectations and stress for many people, and it is rarely perfect. The season won’t always be merry and bright, even at the best of times – and that is OK.
9. Start new traditions
Find creative ways to mark the season – they may even become new traditions. Take a stroll through the neighborhood to view the lights, surprise loved ones by leaving baked goods on their doorsteps, or host an online ‘watch party’ with friends and family, complete with popcorn, eggnog and a classic holiday movie.
10. Remember, this too shall pass
Feeling dragged down by current events? Take the long view and find comfort in a time-tested saying that inspires you. Use the saying as much as you need to give you faith, comfort and hope. “This too shall pass” is a great example!
If you are experiencing prolonged mental health challenges, such as sleep or appetite issues, low mood, or problematic substance use, contact your primary care provider or local counsellor in your community, or call 310-MHSU to reach your local Mental Health and Substance Use centre within Interior Health.
If you are experiencing feelings of hopelessness and thoughts of self-harm, call the 24/7 Interior Crisis Line at 1-888-353-CARE (2273). This confidential and free service is available day and night, even on the holidays.