B.C. mental health expert offers tips for handling holiday stress

B.C. mental health expert offers tips for handling holiday stress

The winter holidays can be a tough time of year for people, with 52 per cent of Canadians reporting feelings of anxiety, depression and isolation during the season.

Holidays are often touted as a time to get together with family, or loved ones, with a lot of pressure to make the season perfect. On top of the usual holiday stress, this year some are dealing with additional anxiety brought on by the pandemic and new restrictions, as well as the extreme weather the province has experienced, according to Pamela Findling, senior manager of communications for the B.C. division of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

If someone is struggling with mental health, Findling has the following tips to help manage stress.

Reach out for help

Friends, family, or loved ones can be good to reach out to, but if someone feels like they need additional support, Findling says there are many resources available.

She says if someone needs immediate help to call 911 or the 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) hotline.

“If you just need to talk to someone, or you need information about what resources are out there, or you need help in a situation, you can call the mental health hotline which is 24 hours seven days a week,” Findling said. The number for this hotline is 310-6789, no area code is needed.

She says the CMHA website also has information about resources available.

Check in with your emotions

Findling says it’s normal this time of year to be feeling emotional, so be sure to check in with yourself to see how you’re feeling.

“Take some time to take stock of your emotions and then address them in a way that’s productive for you and that’s different for everyone,” she said.

“It could be journaling, it could be talking to a loved one, it could be finding an online group or it could be spending quiet time alone. And now with the new restrictions that are in place, it could be going back to those Zoom calls again, or those distanced walks outside.”

Limit “doom scrolling”

With so much happening online, it’s easy to spend too much time on social media, Findling says.

“I’ve certainly been guilty of this myself, just going to social media and seeing all the posts about what’s going on,” she says. “That can create feelings of anxiety or stress. So try to have a timer so that you don’t get sucked into that too much.”

Adjust your expectations

You shouldn’t put pressure on yourself to create the perfect holiday, and Findling says it’s important to adjust your expectations, especially in light of the new restrictions.

“This holiday season might look a lot different for a lot of people and that’s really challenging and really hard. So think about how you can embrace the spirit of the season and the time of year in perhaps new ways,” Findling said. “It could be connecting with loved ones. It could be some of those outdoor activities. It could be checking in on a neighbour to make sure your neighbours are okay, and often when you reach out to other people, it can help create a sense of community.”

Take care of your physical health

Findling says taking care of your physical health can also help with mental health.

“This can be hard for a lot of people to do this time of year. But if you have an opportunity to get some exercise, go outside or follow videos in your living room, whatever works for you that you enjoy exercise,” Findling says.

Another component of this is making sure to not overindulge and to make sure you get enough sleep, according to Findling.

Feeling alone

If someone is feeling alone, or like they have no one to reach out to, Findling says there are places you can reach out.

“If you feel uncertain or you need a friendly voice, you can call [the mental health hotline] 310-6789, there’s online support groups, there’s great social media groups,” Findling said. 

“You may feel like you’re alone or like you don’t have friends or family and you could be surprised when you reach out to someone for help that there are lots of people who do care about you and who are here for you.”

“So just reaching out, kind of throwing the flag up and saying I need someone. People are there they care”

Additional resources

Findling says there are many resources available on the CMHA website for anyone who wants support with their mental health.

BounceBack is a program to help youth and adults who experience low mood, mild to moderate depression, anxiety, stress or worry.

Living Life to the Full is a program designed to help people understand and cope with their emotions.

Finally, the Crisis Line Association of BC and CMHA websites have resources people can access.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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