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A Mental Health Tips List for The Holidays

A woman looking distressed with a health care worker holding her hand in front of a christmas tree.
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The holidays are here! Let the shopping, decorating and parties begin. For more than half the population, however, this time of year is one of depression, anxiety and stress. We have compiled some tips for helping you through this time from our own experts here at Ontario Shores

(As always, if you are experiencing any mental health issues, reach out for help)

Loretta Karikari  

Social Worker/GTU

The holiday season is often synonymous with joy, warmth, and togetherness. However, for many, it can also amplify feelings of loneliness. Remember, the holiday season is an opportunity for self-discovery and growth. Embracing solitude doesn't mean isolation. It can be a powerful journey toward understanding yourself better and finding joy in your own company. If you find yourself facing solitude during this time, here are some mindful strategies to help you navigate and even embrace the season.

  1. Self-Compassion: It's okay to feel lonely. Be kind to yourself and recognize that emotions, even challenging ones, are a natural part of the human experience. 
  2. Reflect on Values: What activities bring you genuine joy? Use the holidays as an opportunity to align your celebrations with what truly matters to you. 
  3. Reach Out Virtually: In today's digital age, distance doesn't have to mean disconnection. Schedule video calls with friends and family, allowing you to share the holiday spirit even from afar. 
  4. Volunteer or Give Back: Consider spending part of your holiday season giving back to the community. Volunteering not only helps others but also provides a sense of purpose and connection. 
  5. Create a Cozy Atmosphere: Transform your living space into a cozy haven. Candles, soothing music.  Indulge in activities that bring you comfort
  6. Engage in Hobbies: Rediscover or explore hobbies that captivate your interest. Reading, painting, or learning something new. Investing time in activities you love can be a fulfilling way to spend the holidays. 
  7. Practice Mindfulness: Embrace the present moment through mindfulness practices. Whether it's meditation, deep breathing, or simply savouring a cup of tea. 
  8. Connect with Others: Attend local events, even virtually, to meet new people and expand your social circle. Joining online communities centered around shared interests can also foster connections. 
  9. Plan Solo Celebrations: Cook your favourite meal, watch movies you love, or take a scenic walk. Treating yourself to a solo celebration can turn a  lonely time into a personally meaningful one.

Ross Murray

Scientific Writer/Research Admin

There are a million tips, or pieces of advice, I could share around exercise and mental health but I've limited it to 4 for now with the theme… Be Active! Even short bouts of low to medium intensity physical activity can help people cope with all types of stress and anxiety. 

  1. Most important:  Find an activity you enjoy! Physical activity doesn't just mean running or lifting weights. It can be any activity that gets you moving. 
  2. Find a comfortable intensity:  You don't have to be exhausted at the end of it to experience the benefits. 
  3. Find an activity partner or group:  Physical activity with others enhances the mental benefits (but physical activity alone is still better than no physical activity).
  4. Find a natural environment to be active in:  Research is starting to show that physical activity in green spaces (e.g., parks, forests) or blue spaces (e.g., near lakes or rivers) enhances the benefits of physical activity on mental health.  

Julie Earl

Nurse Practitioner/GDU

In all of its joy, the holidays can also be a very difficult time of year. For many it is a reminder of a loved one who is no longer part of tradition and celebrations. 

Loss and loneliness around the holidays are ever present issues. We see this quite frequently with the families of our patients who are struggling with the loss of the “personhood” of their loved one.

Although they are still with us, they are unwell or in the severe stages of dementia and hence these two topics come up often.

It’s a tough one to discuss. I often talk with these families about ensuring that they make time for themselves over the holidays, spend time with the supports they have, and try to focus on the positive memories and moments. Celebrating the holidays may be different and often very difficult, and it’s okay to grieve and feel all of the things (joy, sadness, frustration, anger), but it may also be helpful to remember the good times, plan activities and social visits so that they are with the people and supports they care about.

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