The holidays can be an exciting, joyous time of year, but they

rarely present themselves like a picture-perfect Hallmark movie. One study showed up to 64% of people with an existing mental illness experienced their symptoms worsening during the holiday season due to the pressures of socialization or lack of, financial strain, and increase of demands. 

Just because something is a tradition, does not mean it generates joy or fond memories.

Honour your own feelings and do what is best for you. Instead of expectations, set intentions. What do you hope to get out of your traditions?  Whether it is to have fun, reconnecting with family and friends, or creating lasting memories for your children, go in with a fulfilling purpose rather than a superficial one like wanting to impress others. This week, we encourage you to find your holiday harmony, inner peace and rest among challenging times and difficult emotions.

the good things

What about the holidays makes you feel good?

Sometimes we lose perspective among the activities of our day to day lives, and the holiday season gives us the opportunity to refocus on what matters most to us such as giving back, enjoying the simple pleasures, or quality time with loved ones. Think about what boosts your mood:

  • Is there a seasonal treat you enjoy?
  • Is there a campaign or fundraiser you can support?
  • Is there an outdoor activity you would like to arrange with your friends?

the bad things

What about the holidays makes you feel bad?

Holidays can serve as painful reminder for some. Perhaps it is the overconsumption of material goods, amplified feelings of isolation, or it is time spent grieving loss. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How can you minimize the stress? Ex. Setting a realistic budget for gift giving with a plan on where the funds come from and when.
  • How can you include your loved ones? Ex. Ask them to join you for a movie, hot drink, shopping, or decorating. If you cannot get together in person, send letters, photo updates, voice messages, video chat, or play games online. 
  • What traditions work for you? Ex. Ordering takeout instead of cooking an elaborate dinner.
sharing community spirit

What traditions work for you? Ex. Ordering takeout instead of cooking an elaborate dinner.

Volunteer

With the holidays come many campaigns for food and toy drives, clothing and personal item collections, in addition to the regular day-to-day help needed at non-profit organizations. Not all volunteer work needs to follow formalities, it can also be an act of service such as shoveling someone’s walkway or picking up their groceries. If you have some spare time you are looking to fulfill in a meaningful way, reach out to local organizations or your neighbours to ask how you can help.

Donate

If you want to contribute but do not have the funds or time, donating second-hand items is always appreciated. We are familiar with the term ‘spring cleaning’, but de-cluttering this time of year allows for space to be made for new things you may receive from others over the holidays, and the colder weather has us spending more time indoors which we can enjoy when our space is organized and comfortable. If you come across clothing, household items, or tools that are gently loved but you are no longer using, someone may be able to benefit from them. It is a win-win situation! 

Support Local

If you are going to be purchasing gifts/décor/food this year, considering shopping at local vendors, storefronts, and from-home entrepreneurs (including online platforms such as Etsy, social media, delivery arrangements).  With your support, you would be helping families pay their bills, boosting the economy of where you live, and helping bring product to your area.  Your dollar stretches much further in your own community!

Keeping it Simple

Crafts

Crafting is a wonderful way to spend time with others, as you can chat, share a drink, or listen to a movie, music, or podcast in the background while you create! It may also add some warmth to the home or be given to someone as a thank you.

Wrapping

Rather than purchasing an assortment of gift wrap supplies, opt for eco-friendly alternatives where possible. Reusable items such as mason jars, fabric scraps, tea towels, tins, newspaper, and sprigs of cedar or cinnamon can be cheaper, more creative, and double as a gift!

Gifts

Presents do not always have to be new, tangible, or bought. They can be made in the form of food, an act of service, putting something sentimental together that captures memories like a photo album or scrapbook, taking someone on a spontaneous adventure, or highlighting a skill like knitting or sewing. For group exchanges, a White Elephant Gift Exchange can be organized where everyone is to bring one gift. It can be tweaked to be exclusive to secondhand stores, dollar stores, or garage sale finds!

Meals

Perhaps you love cooking and preparing a three-course meal for others is something you look forward to each year, but you can implement a trade off where guests will do the dishes in exchange, or if cooking is overwhelming make it a pot luck style where you have the chance to try everyone’s specialty. 

Maintaining Mental Health

Keep to a Routine

Many events that are associated with the holiday season can interrupt regular scheduling. When sleeping, eating, and physical activity is interrupted, it can have a negative impact on out mental health. Prioritize these activities above all else to ensure you can effectively manage the extra holiday occasions. 

Avoid Triggers

Where possible, stay away from things that will exacerbate your stress levels. For instance, alcohol and substance use can limit our inhibitions and heighten our emotions and can lead us to speaking or behaving in a way we will regret. This could apply to certain people or places as well. 

Ask for Help

There are many community resources available to provide assistance. If you are strapped financially or feeling low for longer periods of time, reach out to us at The Nourish and Develop Foundation (705) 432-2444 as we can help with food access and a variety of social supports including mental health, housing, and employment connections.

Say No

You don’t have to go to that get-together, follow past traditions, or even celebrate the holidays altogether. Rid yourself of obligations, as holidays should never feel forced. Engage in activities because it brings you peace and joy, not if it is going to cause more unnecessary harm than good.

Safety Plan

Some situations may come up that create emotional distress. It can be helpful to have options of action should such an event take place. If you are visiting people who have contentious relationships with one another, know your limits. When conflict reaches to a certain point, that is when you will agree to leave.  You may need to have a ride on call, stay sober so you can get yourself home, or have a taxi service on speed dial. Practice grounding exercises if you are emotionally overwhelmed. 

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