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Fostering Mental Wellness During the Holidays

December 16th, 2021

It’s that time of the year again – the lights are going up, the weather is cooling down, and the plans for time away from work and traditional celebrations with loved ones are in full swing. But for many people, the holiday season brings with it additional servings of stress, loneliness, financial burden, relationship strain, and reminders of past grief and trauma, in addition to worsening symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns. Add to that the ongoing global pandemic crisis and recent flooding disaster in the Fraser Valley, and it’s no wonder that so many people are finding this time of year to be such a struggle. In fact, according to a survey, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reported that “approximately 24% of people with a diagnosed mental illness find that the holidays make their condition ‘a lot’ worse and 40% ‘somewhat’ worse. The pressure of trying to do everything, planning the perfect holiday, traveling to visit family, saying yes to every event, meeting those year-end deadlines and the financial burdens of holiday shopping, can be enough to send anyone into a tail spin” (National Alliance on Mental Illness).

So, what can you do to ease your strain this holiday season? Here are some tips you might try out if you’re anticipating a difficult season this year:

  1. Prioritize self-care. There are a lot of pressures associated with the holiday season. Ensuring your needs are met (nutrition, exercise, sleep, time for self, and social support) is critical to keeping yourself balanced and well. Give yourself permission to make yourself a priority this December.
  1. Set good boundaries. Protect your time, energy, and resources. If social or family expectations around time commitments or event attendance have got you down, remember that it’s OK to decline invitations and set limits on how long you’ll spend with the others in your life. It’s also OK to have boundaries around topics you will and will not be discussing during these events (e.g. no political debates, no discussions around sensitive personal decisions, etc.)
  1. Plan to stick to a budget. The holiday season often brings incredible financial strains as people strive to host the perfect dinner party or give the perfect gift. If finances are a concern for you this season, plan for what your budget will allow and get creative with your gift-giving. Consider donating your time, effort, or talents, such as offering to do yardwork or other chores for a loved one, baking up a sweet treat, or crocheting/knitting in lieu of a store-bought gift.
  1. Be mindful of your substance use. The holidays tend to invite over-indulgence in substances such as alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs. Irresponsible use may worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression in the short- and long-term. Consider your reasons for indulging this season and perhaps choose other, healthier strategies for managing stress and anxiety (e.g. relaxation exercises, physical exercise, etc.)
  1. Move your body. The positive effects of physical exercise on mental and physical well-being are well-documented. Moving your body every day will help to promote wellness and stave off the lethargy and low mood this time of year may bring.
  1. Get outside. Spending time in nature can be incredibly therapeutic, particularly if the sun is shining, and offers an opportunity for exercise and fresh air.
  1. Soak up some sunshine. Seasonal affective disorder makes it particularly difficult for some individuals during the long winter months. Soak up the sun whenever you can, and consider getting a light box for home use when the rain just won’t let up. 
  1. Consider reaching out for support. There is no shame in seeking some addition support and guidance if the holidays are a particularly difficult time for you. Speaking to an experienced counsellor can offer unbiased emotional support and guidance with practical concerns, such as setting boundaries and navigating difficult moments this December. The counselling team at Back in Motion is staffed with compassionate, skilled, and experienced counsellors ready to meet with you and support you through the holidays.

Managing stress and mental health is a challenging task at any time, but is often complicated by the additional stressors of the holidays. Remember that you are not alone in feeling this way, and taking some time to plan for your wellness this season may help you in getting through this difficult time.

With kind regards,


Written by Jennifer Baker, Registered Clinical Counsellor and Manager of Counselling Services, Back in MotionQuote retrieved from: on November 29, 2021