Winter, and specifically the holidays, can be a hard time for many people. It could be that they suffer from issues like seasonal affective disorder, or family strife or loneliness could put a strain on their mental health.
This year, of course, even more of us are likely to be affected, with pandemic measures in place that keep us from visiting our families, traveling, and doing other activities we usually expect to do around the holidays. It seems like the world is headed for a mental health crisis, and depending on who you are, you may be a part of it.
In a recent article for The Conversation, psychologist Dr. Kerri Ritchie and psychiatrist Caroline Gerin-Lajoie suggest reframing how we see the holiday season, and include additional strategies to use when we feel emotionally and mentally drained.
Instead of expecting to do things as we normally would, and instead of worrying about the state of the world or focusing on what and whom we miss right now, here are ways to find the emotional comfort we need:
• giving to others. Helping can make us feel like we have some control in an uncontrollable situation. Ritchie and Gerin-Lajoie also point out that kind acts have been shown to release endorphins. Generous gestures don’t have to involve money. For instance, you could write thank-you notes to front-line workers.
• taking a break. If you’re constantly following the news, you know how it can cause a buildup of anxiety and other negative emotions. It’s crucial to disconnect from time to time. Ritchie and Gerin-Lajoie recommend activities that let you be in the moment. These include physical exercise, a calm walk, or crafting. Better still, they say, would be trying to do something you enjoyed in childhood, like coloring or singing and dancing.
• staying in touch. Although it can be exhausting to constantly talk to friends and family (not to mention co-workers) via screen, don’t let connecting with loved ones fall by the wayside. You can still spend quality moments and build memories remotely.
• being open and forgiving. Ritchie and Gerin-Lajoie remind readers that it’s normal to be experiencing all sorts of emotions, good and bad. We should be kind to ourselves and allow these emotions in, then use strategies to help us find release and relief.
There are a lot of ideas in Ritchie and Gerin-Lajoie’s article. What unites all of them is that these actions doesn’t rely on governments or health experts, but on each of us. Gratitude, positive thinking, and knowing when to take a break are tools we can use to fight the looming threats to our mental health.*
On the aiaTranslations blog, we often focus on messages and ideas that affect the healthcare industry, patients, and the world in general. But now, in the dark of winter, when the holidays may not be as festive as they usually are, it’s time to look at the messages we send ourselves.
We hope that you’re able to find comfort and some happiness in this holiday season. We wish you Happy and Healthy Holidays!
*If you need more help, you can find links to free resources here, or do an online search for “national mental health resources” in your country of residence.