9 Tips on How-to Mentally Cope During the Holiday Season

Updated: Feb 28, 2019

Keeping with our November theme of Stress Awareness and the upcoming holiday season, we wanted to share some tips that will help all of us to mentally prepare or cope with overwhelming feelings that tend to arise at this time of year.

We’ve compiled a list of mental reminders during this holiday season, thanks to Psychology Today, and have expanded on them to keep them relevant to you.

Acknowledge your feelings. Are you in the holiday spirit? Cheerful, excited, bright-eyed, and bushy tail? That’s amazing! The holidays, of course, can be a wonderful celebratory time with friends and family. That being said, it can also be a time where many people feel sadness, overwhelmed, or grief struck (especially if they’ve lost a loved one or have experienced something traumatic) – maybe this is you. It's recommended that if you see a friend or family member struggling, reach out and be there to listen.

Reach out. That’s right. Reaching out to friends and family and acknowledging that we need help is the hardest part. Admitting our struggles to the world can be a scary moment, but it doesn’t have to be because guess what? The ‘Holiday Blues’ do exist. According to this report, 64% of people with some form of mental illness say the holidays actually make it worse.

Be realistic. Who else feels personally victimized by the stores, TV commercials, social media etc., during the holidays? Why do we compare ourselves to strangers on the internet? We mention this because we’ve done it ourselves. We can’t block all holiday marketing messages, but we sure can limit the amount of time used on different apps. Apple has an iPhone feature called ‘screen time' - it is found in your phone settings. The app screentime is available for Android users.

Live within your means. Stick to a budget and don’t go above or beyond it. When finances are a mess from overspending, it can be super triggering towards our mental health. Before going shopping make a list and stick to it! Seriously. Also, re-think expensive purchases and ask if we can DIY or find it for less. No, we do not need that $85 centrepiece from HomeSense because we can hit up Dollarama and make it ourselves. Pinterest is a beautiful thing, my people!

Set aside differences. Try to accept family members, loved ones, and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all of our expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion (in the New Year) and be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes left. More likely than not, they're feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.

Plan ahead. Setting aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities, is a way to keep things from becoming overwhelming. Planning menus, making shopping lists (tip #4), are great ways to keep things organized. This will prevent last-minute scrambling from buying forgotten items. Also! If you are hosting a big family gathering, make sure you ask for party prep help beforehand, so clean-up isn't so overwhelming! Everyone can chip in.

Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and stressed. Friends and family 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 time loss.

Don't abandon healthy habits. Healthy habits not only include being active but include healthy eating. If you are currently practising mindful eating, do not let yourself veer away from your instilled habits. Let yourself indulge, but don't go overboard. That way, you will not feel the intense emotions of shame or regret. Remember, quality vs quantity. Be kind to yourself!

Last but certainly not least, Take a breath. Did you read that? Read and repeat - breathing is the most natural form of self-care. Practise mindful breathing daily for 5 minutes - in for 4, hold for 2, out for 6. We can’t be productive at all when we are not taking care of ourselves. Most natural forms of self-care: reading a book, having a shower/bath, going for a walk etc.

Don't let the holidays become something you dread. Instead, take steps to prevent the stress and depression that is common during the holidays. Learn to recognize so your stresses so you can handle them properly. With a little planning, positive thinking, and self-care, you can find peace and joy during the holidays.

*If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health and needing someone to talk to or feel suicidal, please call Crisis Services Canada at 1 833 456 4566 (available 24/7), or visit their website for more resources. You are never alone 💚

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