The holidays can be emotionally overwhelming, presenting a dizzying array of pressures and expectations. Individuals who may feel these stressors more acutely include those who have lost loved ones, have low income, lack social supports, employment or housing. Although anxiety, depression, and loneliness may occur anytime during the year, the stress of the holidays can amplify these feelings.
Canadian Mental Health Association branches throughout Ontario offer support and services for individuals who are experiencing a difficult time or experiencing a mental health or addiction issue. For example, CMHA Peel recently spoke to local media about how individuals can manage their mental health over the holidays. Read the article on the Brampton Guardian’s website.
Additionally, here are 10 tips on reducing stress and depression this holiday (adapted from the Mayo Clinic):
- Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
- Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or social supports. Attending social events or even spending one-on-one time with a friend can improve your mood. Volunteering your time to help others also is a great way to lift your spirits and make new friends.
- Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come over to visit, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
- Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress too.
- Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Try these alternatives:
- Donate to a charity in someone’s name.
- Give homemade gifts.
- Start a family gift exchange.
- Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
- Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
- Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Try these suggestions:
- Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
- Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes doing something that you enjoy, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind and restoring inner calm. Some options may include:
- Taking a walk at night and star gazing.
- Deep breathing or yoga.
- Listening to soothing music.
- Getting a massage.
- Reading a book.
10. Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling constantly sad, anxious or irritable. You may have physical symptoms, such as pain, headaches, insomnia or a lack of energy. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. You can also call the free Mental Health Helpline or your local CMHA branch for additional support.