Self -Care During the Holiday Season
For many people the Holiday Season is a time characterized by feelings of joy, love, peace, and happiness. A time when many excitedly look forward to the opportunity to be with their closest family, friends, and loved ones to reminisce about the year gone by. What about those who find themselves feeling less than “holly-jolly” though. While the Holiday Season can be the most “wonderful time of the year” for many, for some it’s the polar opposite, with the season bringing about an exacerbation of difficult feelings including worry, stress, isolation, and depression. The truth is not everyone looks forward to the holidays as much as the Hallmark Channel might have you believe.
A recent study carried out by the Canadian Mental Health Association (2022), found that approximately 52% of Canadians report having greater feelings of depression, anxiousness, and isolation during the holidays compared to any other time of year. Knowing this, the question now is, how can you protect yourself and your mental health this Holiday Season?
When it comes to the Holidays, often our high expectations to top last year’s festivities, combined with the overwhelmingly higher emotional labour, and not to mention physical labour, that goes into making said festivities a reality such as cleaning house, decorating, shopping, gifting wrapping, budgeting, cooking, organizing, hosting and so on, it’s no wonder so many of us find ourselves feeling down and out before Christmas Eve rolls around.
The pressure to create the “perfect holiday” and the fear of missing out or being excluded from seasonal traditions can quickly leave you feeling empty at a time when you’re expected to feel full (i.e., full of love, full of joy, full of thanks, full of food etc.). This is why it’s important to set yourself up with reasonable expectations and to remember the following:
- Cast aside the Grinchy judgments of others – you are not forced to celebrate the holidays, let alone in the way popular media suggests you do.
- If you’re feeling trapped or restrained by tradition, then make a change! For some this might mean saying “no” and turning down invitations to social gatherings, and for others this might mean setting boundaries such as agreeing to go out for dinner but not staying for dessert.
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the holiday hustle, then delegate and ask those around you for help. It’s not your job alone to make the holidays.
- Give yourself a break and do something special for yourself – this could be cooking yourself your favourite food, going out to a movie of your choice, or even just taking a little time to sit quietly and read. Whatever you choose to do, just make sure that you’re doing it for yourself.
- Remember that even if you accept an invitation but find yourself feeling overwhelmed or overstimulated while you’re out, it’s okay to take a little time – find a quiet space to take a little time to chill, call a friend to decompress, or take a short walk.
- If you’re not having a good time, you are allowed to leave – regardless of what social convention might dictate, you do not have to stay if you don’t want to. Organize your own transportation so you have the option to stay as long or as little as you want.
- Do what you love and make the holidays work for you – think about the things that you love and enjoy about the holidays and what things you dislike or even hate. Now do the things you actually enjoy! Don’t let tradition, yours or someone else’s, dictate how you celebrate.
- Remember to stay on budget – build yourself a budgeting template to help keep track of your spending so you don’t break the bank.
- Stay mindful of over-indulging – while it might feel good in the moment or help you alleviate some holiday stress, remember that your actions have consequences as future you might not be as happy about past you indulging.
- While gifts are nice, know that you don’t need to buy people things to show them you care – acts of kindness such as lending a helping hand in the kitchen, offering to run errands for a friend, or just spending quality time with a loved are worth more than anything money can buy.
- Validate what you’re feeling and know that it’s okay to not be okay.
If despite your best efforts to get into the holiday spirit you still find yourself struggling with feelings of anxiousness, sadness, or if your negative feelings are getting in the way of your day to day life, reach out for mental health support:
- If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call or text 9-8-8. Support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- If you or someone you care about is experiencing gender-based violence, you can access a crisis line in your province or territory – for Saskatchewan this is the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan
Phone: 211 or Text: 211
- If you’re in immediate danger or need urgent medical support, call 9-1-1
Canadian Mental Health Association. (2022, December 5). Five ways to protect your mental health this holiday season. https://cmha.ca/news/five-ways-to-protect-your-mental-health-this-holiday/
Government of Canada. (n.d.). Mental health support: Get help. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/mental-health-services/mental-health-get-help.html?utm_campaign=hc-sc-mental-health-23-24&utm_medium=sem&utm_source=ggl&utm_content=ad-text-en&utm_term=mental%20health&adv=2324-471650&id_campaign=20569209009&id_source=153075713959&id_content=674818189115&gclid=Cj0KCQiA7OqrBhD9ARIsAK3UXh1Og5ZyVU14TPi-oQi1K3BU2KguRjbT15VY6cMCd5BgHww2V7ooAnEaAqEsEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds
Blog Post by Provisional Psychologist, Casie Chang