The Holidays and Mental Health

Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year.  The air is crisp, Starbucks has all the holiday drinks out, Hallmark Christmas movies are plenty, family gatherings increase, and I get to see my niece and nephew brighten with thoughts of cookies, presents, and Santa Claus.  However, the holidays also come with financial stress, burden, crowded stores, and for many, loneliness. While I am grateful for this special time with my family and loved ones, I am also aware that for many the holidays come with immense stress and confusion. Here are some thoughts for mental health this holiday season.

Mindfulness

As the year comes to a close, it is often a time for reflection on times cherished, and moments that would rather be forgotten. It’s always wonderful to reflect and learn from the past, but it is also important to keep the mind in the present moment.  Enjoy the day given, look at the changing scenery of nature, the way the world moves at a different pace during these times.  Sometimes, this time of year has me thinking about the months to come, the credit card statement that is sure to come soon, and all the stresses of the holiday (more on this later). When my mind begins to race with thoughts of tomorrow, I like to come back to the present and take in the moments I will only have once.  Remaining mindful during the holidays is my first tip for the season!

 

Gift Giving

It’s easy to get caught up in the consumerism of the holidays. As someone whose love language is definitely gift giving, I find it hard to maintain realistic budgets for this time of year.  The little things add up, and while it gives me great joy in buying gifts for my loved ones, everyone has a different approach to the tradition of gift giving.  As I see the hustle and bustle of the holidays around me, I try to remain aware of my personal limitations, and the limitations of others.  While reciprocity is still a major part of human culture, extending beyond your means can cause undue stress. I like to be aware that time is one of the most precious gifts to give someone.  If you think about it, time is irreplaceable, it is yours to choose who you give that gift to. If financial stress haunts you this time of year, remember that giving some of your time is a wonderful gift for someone to receive.  Pair your time with a tea, coffee, card, craft, or a glass of wine! Or, take a stroll down a lit lane, free skating downtown, or any of the events that happen this time of year.  Perhaps offer uninterrupted time, and truly focus your energy on the person(s) in front of you; listen to what they have to share, and offer some of your thoughts. And if in-person time giving is not attainable, thankfully we live in a day and age where connecting with people is easier than ever.  Giving your time will cost no money, but it is truly an amazing gift!

Boundaries

Boundaries are not the easiest things to place in general, little-lone during the holidays, but they are incredibly important! Maintaining boundaries is as easy as accepting and embracing your needs.

There Are More Than One Way To Do Things

Some families celebrate Christmas for the birth of Christ, others for family time, gift giving, great food, and some for all of the above or none of the above.  The point is, there are a million ways to celebrate the holidays and I think it is important to remember that for various reasons. It can be difficult to not compare your holiday to others, but I think it is important to accept that everyone chooses holiday time differently.  Yes, it can be heartbreaking as a parent to not be able to spoil your kids like some parents are able to do, but there is more than one way to express your affections to your child.  The holiday season is rooted in deep familial and cultural tradition, and regardless of how that expression is put forth: mounds of presents, small gifts, big turkey dinners, take-out meals; I believe there is value in it all.

 

It can be tough when the holidays approach and you feel lonely. Some people are experiencing this season without a parent, child, or loved one.  Others may be experiencing hunger, or grief.  Oftentimes this reality sinks deep into my heart and consumes my thoughts.  And so, I end this post with a thought to share: give generously with smiles, offer kindness to retail staff, and patience to servers. Accept your limitations and boundaries. Understand that everyone carries something this time of year, and a simple act of kindness can go along away.

 

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!

Katherine Hollingsworth, BA