Holiday Season Mental Health Tips

It is that time of year, especially here in Toronto, where the giant trees are up (has anyone seen the new giant Christmas tree in the Eaton Center- wow!), the lights are sparkling in offices (if you haven't already, go for a walk in Brookfield Place!), our parka's are out to fight the cold weather, our wallets are opening for holiday shopping, and our calendars are filling up with holiday festivities. I don't know about you, but I am feeling overwhelmed just writing out the details of the holiday season!  

The unwanted feelings of depression, anxiety and feeling overwhelmed are very common during the holiday season. There is so much going on at this time of year and the demands on our time, wallets, and bodies can take a toll on our mental health.  Additionally, it is also a time of year where people may feel acutely aware of the loss of loved ones and feel personal loneliness.

So knowing that this time of year can impact our mental health, lets be proactive! Today we are sharing tips for maintaining your mental health this holiday season. By being mindful and implementing some of these strategies, you may even end up loving the holiday season this year! 


6 Strategies to support your mental health this holiday season:


1. Year end reflections

Take some time to reflect on your accomplishments this year both personally and professionally. Think about what challenges you have overcome and consider areas for improvement moving forward. Give yourself thanks and credit by creating a gratitude journal or list. Make note of things you are grateful for and appreciate at work, at home, and about yourself. Writing your reflections in a journal may be another strategy to try. With these reflections, you may find a sense of self-appreciation, gratitude, and self-efficacy - use this to look to the future with an open mind. 

2. Budget, budget, budget!

Being mindful of our finances at this time of year is crucial. When we overspend, we tend to get down on ourselves, and bring on feelings of anxiety. Knowing there may be a lot of expenses, make a plan this year that works for you and your family and most importantly, stick to it! Try organizing a gift exchange at work or with your family with a budget for gifts - this way you minimize your spending by only buying one gift for each exchange. Consider a budget for gifts, parties, food, and activities for this time of year. Review your budget often to ensure you are on track and stay committed! 

3. Social Connections 

Social connections are key to overcoming feelings of loneliness and depression. Holiday season social calendars look different for everyone so start by not comparing yours to that of your friends, colleagues or family.  It is important to spend time with people you care about and people who care about you. Here are some tips to manage your social calendar this season:

Be realistic and pace yourself - Make a plan in advance of what you can do and how much time you can spend at each gathering. Be realistic with what you take on and setting priorities in advance can help with this. 

Looking to make new social connections? Join a winter activity group, volunteer, or attend holiday activities in your neighbourhood to meet like-minded individuals. Plan your outings and schedule in advance and set realistic goals.

 Create new traditions that incorporate people you may have lost or cannot be with this holiday season. Consider their favourite activities, music, traditions, and try to incorporate it into your holiday plans. 

4. Take time for yourself

Plan out some time that you can take for yourself. Even if it is 15-30 minutes, doing something for yourself will help reduce stress, clear your mind and make you smile. Examples include:

  • Taking a walk in nature
  • Listening to relaxing music or any music you enjoy
  • Getting a massage
  • Reading a book
  • Mindfulness meditation 
  • Engaging in a hobby you enjoy

5. Don't abandon your healthy habits

We often over eat and feel "lazy" over the holidays so work towards staying active, spending time outside, and eating your veggies! Plan time for exercise and activities you enjoy each day. Plan to engage in these activities with colleagues, family and/or friends to combine healthy habits with holiday activities. 

6. Seek professional help & Use your benefits

If your holiday depression, anxiety or stress seems severe or is interfering with your job or home life, talk to your doctor and/or clinical team. Many people’s benefit plans run January to December. It could be beneficial to check into your plan before the end of the year so you can use sessions before they expire. Maybe that extra massage or psychology treatment session will help manage some holiday stress. 

What other strategies do you use to manage your mental health over the holidays? Did you find these helpful? Let us know in the comments below! Happy Holidays to all!