Caring for Your Mental Health Over the Holidays

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THUNDER BAY – LIVING – The holiday season is not the easiest time for many people. While our social media is often filled with images of people enjoying the holidays, and television shows paint the Christmas season as a time of wonder, happiness and joy, for a lot of people this is a lonely time of the year.

It is also a time where there is the potential for people to think that they are at fault for not making the season as magical as they think it should be.

Ontario’s doctors encourage everyone to make their mental health a priority through the holiday season and winter months. This is perhaps even more important as 2021 winds to an end and we are still gripped by a pandemic.

This is the time of year when many people experience a shift in mood and lack energy. The onset of dark, snowy weather can trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression that occurs during the fall and winter.

The Ontario Medical Association says that following small lifestyle adjustments can help people suffering from SAD and anyone feeling the impact of this winter holiday season cope with the symptoms:

  • Understand holidays are not always full of joy.
    Holidays can be both stressful and fulfilling. Try to accept the different emotions instead of setting the unrealistic expectation everything should be positive and good.
  • Breathe.
    When feeling overwhelmed, take five minutes to breathe and observe what is around you. A five-minute pause can help you gain clarity on what is truly important.
  • Gratitude
    Take a moment each day to think of three things or people you are grateful for and allow yourself to feel that experience.
  • Set Boundaries.
    Sometimes dealing with family situations can be stressful. Set boundaries, including how much time you spend together and what behavior you will tolerate. If a relative starts discussing something uncomfortable, such as your weight, a simple “my body is not up for discussion,” could be a response that sets a boundary. Boundaries are important to maintain every day.
  • Kindness
    Do an act of kindness every day, whether for a relative, a pet, a neighbour or a stranger. Acts of kindness are known to increase your own kindness.
  • Disconnect.
    Take time to disconnect from screens, phones, news, etc. for about one hour each day to help recharge your mind and engage in other activities, like going for a walk or other physical activity.
  • Stay social.
    Although your symptoms may make this difficult, keep in regular contact with family and friends, both in person and virtually. These networks can provide opportunities to socialize and refresh your mood. Your loved ones may also be experiencing effects of the season. Staying connected with friends and family, especially those who are elderly, vulnerable or live alone is a great way to show support and understanding and spread good cheer.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out.
    Pay attention to how you are feeling and reach out to people in your support network for comfort and understanding. If you need additional support, seek care from a trained professional. If you are feeling suicidal or unsafe, go to your nearest emergency department or crisis center. Your life matters.
  • NARCAN kits.
    Too many loved ones are being lost to opioid overdose in Ontario. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use, even if rare, have a NARCAN kit handy. NARCAN is a prescription medicine used to treat a known or suspected opioid overdose. It could save a life.
  • Make the holidays your own.
    Life isn’t always warm and fuzzy like holiday commercials. You deserve credit for everything you’ve overcome and any negativity you’ve had to tolerate. Celebrate your accomplishments and make the holidays your own.
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