EDITORIAL: Mental health requires care over the holidays

The Christmas season can be a time of increased stress

It’s hard to wish joy to the world, and mean it, if we’re not feeling it ourselves.

For so many who struggle with their mental health, the holiday season isn’t the most wonderful time of the year at all; rather, it can be trying. The season has a tendency to bring up sad memories, sparking depression and anxiety.

The Christmas season can be a time of increased stress, with so much shopping and wrapping and baking to do. That’s just the way it is, and it might not seem like anything we can’t handle. For those of us whose mental health is more fragile, though, the pressures of the season can rob us of the necessary time for self-care. We might feel like we need a ‘mental health day,’ but the calendar shows there’s no time to fit it in, and that’s problematic.

Expectations to spend time with sometimes fractured families can be stressful for anyone and more uncomfortable for those suffering from mental health issues. Compounding that is the sense that everyone is ‘supposed’ to be happy during the holiday season and the family time that comes with it. That notion can make someone who is depressed feel further isolated.

The truth is one in five Canadians experiences mental health issues at one point or another, meaning odds are someone sitting around your Christmas dinner table is struggling to some degree with the season.

The Canadian Mental Health Association offers on its website a list of tips to help people get through the holiday season. It recommends steps such as planning ahead, staying within a Christmas budget, learning stress-busting skills and other self-care strategies.

Checklist or not, maybe it’s worthwhile to think about the holidays a little bit differently. It isn’t just a set of traditions that everyone needs to follow, participate in and enjoy in exactly the same way. We aren’t wired like that. The holidays should be comfortable for all of us, and more importantly, for each of us. Ask what you can do for family members, or friends or coworkers or anyone who might have a hard time with the season. Don’t forget to listen to the answer.

Let’s be joyous, but first, let’s make sure we’re OK.

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