As we embrace the holiday season, the realities of a global pandemic have put winter traditions on hold. A busy month, typically filled with quality time with friends and family, religious holidays and new years’ celebrations, will now be spent physically distanced. Many of us will spend the holidays away from the family, friends and faith communities who make this season so wonderful, which can take a toll on our mental health.
Further, the added stress and uncertainty make many people to feel hopeless and lost during this time. It’s no surprise that similar to a natural disaster or traumatic event, people are experiencing a decline in their mental health. Add the lost sense of connection during the holidays and health and financial strains; it can be hard to stay positive.
The Canadian Mental Health Association wants to help you find joy this season. Here are a few ways you can maintain your mental health during the holidays:
Adjust your expectations
Celebrations this month will be different from what you’re used to, and that’s okay! Set your expectations to what’s possible right now, and find joy in the ways you can still celebrate. Have open discussions with your children about the differences they can expect to help them adjust.
Pick up the phone
Or better yet, schedule a video call with your family and friends. Keeping connected like you would with a family dinner or gathering can help maintain a sense of normalcy. It’s still possible to eat together virtually; it might just take a bit more planning.
Spend time outside
Spend some time outside and enjoy the fresh air. Go for a walk, toboggan down the hill at your neighbourhood park or build a snowman in your front yard.
Eat your favourite foods
Make delicious meals that bring you joy, even if you can’t share them with your loved ones around the table. If possible, plan ahead and order grocery store items in advance for curb-side pickup. Spend time cooking and enjoying the traditional foods you’re used to eating this time of year.
Take this time as an opportunity to slow down and enjoy the things you are able to take part in. This might mean reading a book you didn’t have time to start this year, taking a nap by the fireplace, reading stories to your grandkids over the phone or watching your favourite holiday movies.
If you enjoy cooking or baking during this season, you still can! Drop off your creations on the doorsteps of your loved ones, or deliver them to your local hospital, grocery store or essential service worker to show your appreciation for their hard work.
Find a new way to celebrate
Maybe this year’s caroling is done in your living room instead of at your place of worship. A different way to celebrate will give you an opportunity to find new and interesting ways to incorporate the holidays at home. Who knows, maybe you’ll discover a new tradition you love.
Stop and exercise gratitude. It can be natural to focus on all that’s going wrong right now. Take time each day to focus on the things that you are grateful for. You can do this by writing down a gratitude list or talking about it with loved one.
Pick up a paintbrush, write a poem or play that keyboard you’ve had in storage for years. Focusing your energy on something creative will give you an outlet for any pent up energy. Display your creations in your front windows for your community to see and enjoy.
Be okay with not being okay
It’s a difficult time right now. Don’t feel like you have to be productive or happy. Sadness, anger and disappointment are all natural feelings and acknowledging them is the first step towards feeling better. Find a close family member or friend you can talk to and identify supports in your community that can help you navigate your mental health. If you or a loved one is experiencing mental health distress during this time, please call 211 (Alberta only) or the Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642.
How are you managing your mental health right now? Tweet us at @cmha_ab and share your tips.