It may have hit you like a snowball in the back of the head, but December has arrived and Christmas is nearly here. The risk exists that stress and depression can ruin your holidays and hurt your health. However, being realistic, planning ahead and seeking support can help to ward off related risks and potential mental health related problems. Truthfully, it’s no wonder the holiday season brings unwelcome guests—such as stress and depression—with the dizzying array of expectations, demands, parties, shopping, baking and cleaning to name just a few. The holidays can also be at time when we offer comfort, receive comfort or may be in need of comfort. Comfort is something we all have within reach—even in the eye of the most unnerving anxiety, the inkiest depression or the heaviest grief. Comfort doesn't guarantee joy, but you can find comfort even in the midst of pain. With some practical tips, you can minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would. When stress is at its peak, it's hard to stop and regroup. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.
1. ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR FEELINGS. If someone close to you has recently died or you can't be with loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief. It's OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.
2. REACH OUT. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
3. BE REALISTIC. The holidays don't have to be perfect. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones.
4. SET ASIDE DIFFERENCES. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress too.
5. STICK TO A BUDGET. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Try these alternatives: donate to a charity in someone's name, give homemade gifts or start a family gift exchange.
6. PLAN AHEAD. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That'll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
7. LEARN TO SAY NO. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity. If it's not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
8. DON'T ABANDON HEALTHY HABITS. Don't let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard on sweets or drinks. Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.
9. TAKE A BREATHER. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Take a walk at night and stargaze. Listen to soothing music. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.
10. SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP IF YOU NEED IT. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
WESTMAN CRISIS SERVICES 24-hour service for all adults in the Westman Area who are experiencing a mental health or psychosocial crisis. CALL: 204- 725-4411 or 1-888-379-7699
THE CHILD AND ADOLESCENT TREATMENT CENTRE (CATC) Provides Mental Health services to children, adolescents and their families. Includes a Crisis Stabilization Unit which provides 24-hour support to clients in crisis.
CALL: 204- 727-3445 or 1-866-403-5459
For more information on Mental Health Promotion & Education: CALL: 204- 578-2450
Reason To Live: www.reasontolive.ca
Calm In the Storm (website and free App) www.calminthestormapp.com
Manitoba Farm, Rural & Northern Support Services (telephone and on-line counselling) www.supportline.ca