submitted by Susan Healey
The holiday season is almost here! And with it can come all sorts of emotions regardless of the age one might be. We all want those picture-perfect moments to post on social media and many of us may watch the hallmark movies of love and family that are hard to miss this time of year. It’s easy to get caught up in the comparison trap and feel stressed about the holidays.
Those snapshot moments in time that are posted to one’s social media account or the Hollywood Christmas movies are not most people’s reality. So what can we do to take care of our mental health over this holiday season, regardless of our age?
1. Manage your expectations
Try to be honest about what’s realistic. This can include finances (who hasn’t felt their budget stretched this year?), the type of gifts you give, and what your time spent with family ought to look like. Sometimes creating a list of what you can control helps to manage your expectations. The holidays don’t have to be perfect to have fun.
2. Set boundaries
Find a balance and be willing to say “no”. Just because you have a free evening doesn’t mean it has to be filled with family, friends, or events. Sometimes a little “you” time helps you to better enjoy time spent with family or other holiday events. Consider taking a break from social media to focus on and enjoy your own holiday moments rather than comparing them with what others are posting.
3. Do what brings you joy
Sometimes the holidays can be challenging. When you’re stressed, it’s normal to lose that sense of joy. Try making a “joy list” – time spent with friends? Maybe you’re an introvert and it’s the exact opposite – time spent on your own, meditating! Give back to your community – this is a great time of year to volunteer someplace. Exercise and getting out into nature such as a family walk can give you an extra boost in the joy department. Many of our celebrations include foods that may not be available year-round. While some of these foods are more nutritionally dense, others bring us joy, so consider an “all food fits” approach this holiday season.
4. Practise gratitude
Noticing the little things can make a huge difference. Maybe it’s an evening bonfire with friends or family, or hearing a favorite song. Write down what you notice at some point in the day as a reminder to yourself. It’s something you can always look back on at a later date.
5. Ask for help
We all need help at various times in our lives. Mental health is no different. If you’re finding the holidays difficult, try talking to someone you trust, or to a trained counsellor. Depending on your age:
- Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 or text CONNECT to 686868 available 24/7,
- Anxiety Canada website with resources for all ages,
- BounceBackOntario is a free, guided self-help program for those 15 and up, or
- Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health (CCSMH) offers resources for aging adults and their families.