Christmas can be a time when you hate being asked ‘How are you?’
Aileen Manahan, a Credentialed Mental Health Nurse and Nursing Unit Manager, talks about what she has learned after almost 10 years of working in the field of mental health.
Learn to recognise your holiday triggers so you can combat them before they lead to a meltdown. When stress is at its peak, it is hard to stop and regain control. But with a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during these holidays.
I have practised all of these tips myself and have shared them with my family and friends as well as patients.
- Acknowledge your feelings. Know that what you are feeling is valid. It is normal to feel sadness and grief if you cannot be with someone for any reason such as death, a relationship issue or border closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. Don’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
- Learn to reach out. Try seeking out community, religious or other social events if you feel isolated. Online support groups, social media sites or virtual events can offer support and companionship.
- It may help to talk to a friend or family member about your concerns with a text, a call or a video chat.
- Volunteering your time or doing something to help others is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
- Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect. Be open to changes and adapt new ways to celebrate this year. For example, if your adult children or other relatives can’t come to your home, share pictures, emails or videos. Even though your plans may look different this year, you can still have fun.
- Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are. Be understanding of the feelings of others as they may be feeling the stress of Christmas, just like you.
- Stick to a budget. Don’t break your wallet by buying more and splurging on Christmas gifts. Make sure you have planned your budget before going shopping and stick to your plan. Give homemade cookies or pastries.
- Learn to say No. It is ok to say no to a party or a gathering if it is giving you more time to relax. Say yes if you want to go, not because you feel you need to.
- Plan ahead. Nothing beats planning ahead this festive season. You will avoid bad traffic and chaotic shops, forgetting something for someone and missing ingredients for your favourite dish.
- Have a healthy snack before festive gatherings so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
- Eat healthy meals. Get plenty of sleep. Include regular physical activity daily. Try deepbreathing exercises, meditation or yoga. Avoid excessive tobacco, alcohol and drug use.
- Be aware of how social media can produce undue stress.
- Make some time for yourself. Find an activity you enjoy. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do.
- Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.
- Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.