The holidays can be tough. Here’s how to keep your mental health in check

Tips on how to help yourself and others over the holidays

The holiday season can add extra stress, be it crowded shopping centres or shorter days with little sun, let alone the ongoing anxieties around the pandemic.

But there are simple things everyone can do to keep their mental health in check over the holidays.

Canadian Mental Health Association Kelowna Associate Director Jessica Samuels told Kelowna10, much like last year, this year presents the same difficulties for people.

“We have individuals in this on and off again cycle, almost a Groundhog Day type effect, where we think we’re coming on the other side of COVID [and] things can get back to perhaps what we're used to do and like recently, we get hit with a new set of restrictions,” she said. “That leads to a compounded factor when it comes to mental health distress over the holiday season.”

Pandemic aside, Samuels said with the lack of direct sunlight, about two per cent of the population suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but the general reduction in outdoor activity this time of year can have an impact on our mood.

She has a few helpful pieces of advice for and after the holiday season. This includes understanding that people might not be their best selves and not openly share what is bothering them. Also, talk to your partner or loved ones and see if they’re okay and ask how you can help. Know what is within your control and focus on the true meaning of the holiday season. Connecting with people close to you whether it’s in-person, online or outdoors. Diminish expectations for holidays and understand the expectations.

According to Samuels, there has been a significant increase in the number of people going to the CMHA and The Foundry, which helps young people aged 12 to 24 and their families, deal with distress, anxiety, low moods, and depression.

“We see people calling us in higher distress; individuals in a mental health crisis, they’re having thoughts of suicide, and this is a result of what we have all been going through the past two years,” she said. “We cannot underestimate the level of exhaustion and fatigue that we’re feeling because of the ongoing uncertainty of COVID-19. It might be something we feel we can manage or downplay, and some of us can, but not everyone can.”

She recommends people do a self-check in the new year to find out how they’re feeling.

Virtual counseling is available through CMHA and Foundry Kelowna along with the provincial crisis lines. Anyone in need of immediate help should call 9-1-1.

Published 2021-12-28 by Connor Chan

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