If TV is any indicator, we should all be happy and loving during this time of year. Most of us, however, feel stressed and frustrated during the holidays. It is the time of year we feel the need to be around family. For some, that means being around people they want a good relationship with, but for whatever reason, do not have.
For others, it's hard because there is an empty plate at the table from a recent death or loss. For some of my friends, the fact that they do not have a family (for whatever reason) is really evident this time of year. For me, it's hard because I feel faced with gossip and constant reminders that I am not where I should be in my career or life.
The holidays can be great for some, but for me, and many people I know, they are more of a nightmare. So how do we move past this? I am going to share with you a couple ideas that I have had that have worked for me ( they may not work for everyone). I am sharing these things in the interest of conversation, so please let me know what works for you!
1. Find something you enjoy doing during the holidays: Make plans to go see an out of town friend, or have a friend oriented Christmas party. Try and keep up with the activities you enjoy year round. If you have a favourite, chocolate, meal or whatever make it a goal to put some funds aside to attain that. Buy yourself a gift, large or small, to celebrate getting through this year.
2. Say No: this is the time of year when guilt trips come out in full stride. We feel the need to go to parties and see people who, let's be honest, we really don't want to see. Your mental health is especially important during this time of year where you will be exposing yourself to extra stress. You will be worrying about getting gifts, money issues and many other preparations and problems. If going to an event or seeing someone is going to cause you more stress than happiness... say no.
I know thinking this and doing this has caused me a lot of grief and guilt, but in the end, it helps me maintain good mental health. We all want people to do and act a certain way, but in the end.... they won't. So why put ourselves in a situation that is going to make up upset or angry?
3. Support: Do seek the support of those who you love to be around and laugh with. Spend time with friends, or even volunteer your time. Charities are always looking for extra hand this time of year, especially after all the donations they tend to receive at Christmas.
4. Turn off the TV: The media is flushed with images of the perfect family, friends and life this time of year. (Actually, almost all the time, but pronounced this time of year.) We really don't need to be watching the same movies holidays specials. It can leave us wondering... why can't I have that? So try and find entertainment in other movies or shows, or even go play in the newly fallen snow (instead of instagraming it :P).
5. Do something on New Year: Whether that's going out with friends, going to a friends house or even taking part in the numerous free events around Canada and the world on New Year... try and do something you would not normally do this time of year.
6. New Year's Resolutions: If you partake in this tradition, try and write out a REASONABLE plan about how you are going to attain this goal. Trying to achieve vague goals is hard if you don't have a plan to achieve them. Try and set smaller goals to achieve your goals. Also, try and right healthy goals that will benefit you as a person. Try: I want to get healthier by taking the stairs at work, instead of just losing weight.
7. Your life is awesome: During this time of year, I really notice a lot of what's wrong with myself and relationships. Try and look at all the awesome things that are good for you right now. Even if it's just a pet. Your life will be awesome, as you deserve an awesome life and the world wants to see the amazing things I know you have to offer it. So, use the holiday season as a time to research treatment options that you think you want in your life.
Try and focus on the thoughts and emotions you are feelings and how to change those. If you have a person causing a lot of your feelings, maybe even make a plan to remove yourself from them during this year. Nothing is a better gift to yourself than the gift of happiness and attempting to live the life you want.
8. And this goes for all year: Don't listen to crap: Gossip is big this time of year, engaging in it is tempting but try and walk away from it. It can cause you more stress in your life than its worth. We are also in control of our interactions with people. Walk away from fights if someone is picking one with you. Make jokes in response to them saying hurtful things to you. Figure out a way of dealing with the situation that is going to be less stressful for you.
The next few weeks are stressful. There will be a lot of reflection about the last year and a focus on why 2017 will be better. Sit with yourself and decide what coping skills and resources you will need to stay healthy during this time.
In closing, I wish you all an amazing and happy holiday season. I hope you find happiness where ever you want it.
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One in five Canadians will experience mental illness in their lifetime Source: Canadian Mental Health Association
Nearly half of those who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never gone to see a doctor about this problem. Source: CMHA
Latest studies showed more than 1.3 million young Canadians have a mood disorder or addiction. Two-thirds had symptoms before the age of 15. Source: Statistics Canada, Government of Canada
Suicide is among the leading causes of death in 15- to 24-year-old Canadians, second only to accidents. In 2012, 261 Canadian kids and teens took their own lives. Source: CMHA, Statistics Canada
LGBTQ youth face about 14 times the risk of suicide and substance abuse than their heterosexual peers Source: CMHA Ontario
First Nations youth are at a higher risk. The suicide rate among First Nations youth is roughly five to seven times higher than that of the general population. Source: Parliament of Canada study, 2014
People with mental illness and addictions are more likely to die prematurely than those without. Mental illness can cut 10 to 20 years from a person’s life expectancy. Source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Contending with her bipolar disorder brought Yashi Brown to poetry, and with it, she's trying to end the stigma of mental illness.
If you need help, visit ementalhealth.ca to search for services in your area. Or call the Kids' Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868, it's Canada's only free phone counselling service for youth under 20.
Follow Alicia Raimundo on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asraimun