Saturday , 25 September 2021

Mental Health Matters: Navigating the holidays

This Christmas season will be celebrated differently and while it can be one of great joy, some also feel the blues during the holidays.

Whitney Huckstep, registered psychologist, with Supporting Wellness Psychological and Family Services has some tips to help you during the holiday season. 

She says it’s important for people living alone to connect with someone during the holidays, whether online, or through two individuals they can meet with.

“If you are somebody that needs that connection that needs those interpersonal relationships, then make sure that you reach out to another–whether it’s another couple or just another individual person–to connect with over the holidays,” said Huckstep.

“For those of us who can’t, who maybe are restricted from seeing family that we want to or traveling to see family, trying to create that atmosphere where we can still connect in other ways. Maybe it’s getting our kids to write letters the old school way, maybe it’s writing emails, maybe it’s connecting over the phone, or over Skype.

“Yes, it’s not going to be the same, nothing will be the same as connecting in person, but it can maybe gap that bridge a little bit, so that we’re still connecting, or Skyping over and opening gifts together on either end, things like that, so that we’re still kind of being present with each other.”

One thing Huckstep recommends is controlling what you can control during the holidays. Tempering expectations that everyone is going to have a “perfect” Christmas can help from burning out, while also recognizing when you might need a break for yourself from your household unit.

“We should be saying I would prefer it if everybody had a great holiday. But I can’t control that, right. So even just her change of language and recognizing what our limitations are, set what our expectations are for yourself, and maybe bringing those into a more realistic level,” she said.

“Recognizing that we can’t control everything, especially everybody else’s feelings, emotions, and experiences. That’s on them to make Christmas what they want to.”

Those boundaries are also good to set if you’re experiencing a recent loss, or have memories of passed family members on Christmas. It could also mean doing an activity with those feeling that loss that brings back fond memories.

“It’s important that we don’t force ourselves to just say, ‘Oh, just get over it, move on. It’s Christmas, be happy.’ We have to make sure that we acknowledge and embrace our own emotions that we’re having. Because it’s okay.

“Even though it’s Christmas, that doesn’t mean we have to be super happy 24-7 throughout the day, we can acknowledge those ones that we’ve lost, we can acknowledge that we’re missing them.

“As an example, for my grandpa, something that I always used to do with him was crossword puzzles or word searches or things like that. So if I had to deal with that kind of on my own, then I would set aside time, give myself the space in an area away from those other family members, and maybe do some word searches or crossword puzzles, in remembrance of him just something that we used to do together.”

During the coming winter months, with more people working at home or forced into self-isolating, maintaining a routine is a key way to keep up your energy and spirits.

“If we’re not getting physical exercise or getting outside, we’re not releasing those endorphins. If we’re not doing things that we make us feel productive or accomplished, we don’t feel as good about ourselves. If we’re not doing stuff that fuels our body, eating healthy and things like that, we’re not going to have as much energy. If we’re not giving ourselves time to relax or time to sleep, we’re going to be drained.”

Huckstep says if there’s one easy thing everyone can do, it’s to reach out to a friend or family member they haven’t heard from in awhile and check in with them.

“Even though it’s hard initially to reach out, I urge everybody this Christmas, I challenge everybody this Christmas to reach out to at least one person and just check in because sometimes that makes the world of a difference where we might have a quick laugh on the phone. Then if we’re laughing and smiling, that releases all the positive hormones to which then just brightens our mood.”

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.