Mental Health and Self-Care Over the Holidays

December 18, 2019. Article by: Government of BC

During the holidays, many people hope to spend quality time with family, friends and loved ones.

As well as feelings of happiness and celebration, the holiday season can bring difficult emotions for many people, for many different reasons.

Stress, isolation, and reliving past pain and trauma is common at this time of year – and can lead people to experience mental health challenges or use substances to cope with their feelings.

Here are ways to deal with stress and manage your mental health and well-being over the holidays.

  1. Maintain regular routines around exercise, sleep and personal interests. With extra pressures on our time and attention, it can be easy to fall out of the routines that help us manage our health and wellness through the rest of the year. Try to maintain your healthy habits – eat nutritious food, stay active, get plenty of sleep and don’t forget to spend time on the activities that relax and sustain you all year round.  

  2. Moderation matters. ‘Tis the season to be jolly… but drinking more than you intend can affect your physical and mental health. Alcohol is a depressant that can lower your mood – follow Canada’s low-risk alcohol guidelines to stay in good spirits. 

  3. Spend time with people close to you. From gathering with family members, friends or loved ones to getting together with social, cultural or faith groups, spending time with our personal connections and community is one of the best ways to nurture positive mental health and well-being. This may also mean creating healthy boundaries with people who may bring stress or tension into your holidays – don’t be afraid to decline invitations or take some time to yourself if you need to.

  4. Don’t strive for perfection. Many people feel pressured to have the perfect holiday season. This can lead to stress and disappointment if reality doesn’t match the ideal. Try to dial down the expectation of a picture-perfect celebration. Enjoy simple, inexpensive traditions; look for meaning and positivity in what the holidays bring to you.

  5. Acknowledge your feelings. Many people struggle with feelings of loss, grief, or change during the holidays. If you have lost someone close to you, you can't be with loved ones, or are experiencing a difficult life transition, know that you are not alone and that it's normal to feel sadness.

Most importantly, ask for support if you need it.

There are resources available to help if you are experiencing mental health challenges over the holidays.

  • HealthLink BC: Provides 24/7, confidential health information and advice. Call 8-1-1 or visit: healthlinkbc.ca.
  • Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre: Provides confidential, non-judgmental, free emotional support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including thoughts of suicide. Call 604 872-3311 (Greater Vancouver), or toll-free 1 800 SUICIDE (784-2433), or visit: crisiscentre.bc.ca.
  • The KUU-US Crisis Response Service: Provides 24/7 culturally-aware crisis support to Indigenous people in B.C. Call 1-800-588-8717 or visit: kuu-uscrisisline.ca.
  • Mental Health Digital Hub: A provincial website that provides information, services and education and awareness about mental health and substance use for adults, youth and children: gov.bc.ca/mentalhealth.
  • Bounce Back: A free evidence-based program designed to help youth and adults experiencing symptoms of mild to moderate depression, low mood or stress, with or without anxiety. Bounce Back® teaches effective skills to help people improve their mental health. Call toll-free: 1 866 639-0522 or visit: bouncebackbc.ca.
  • MindHealthBC: Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, Providence Health Care and community partners have created an online mental health counselling program. If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health or substance use challenges, visit mindhealthbc.ca for information and recommendations for further support in Vancouver, Richmond and other coastal communities.
  • Heretohelp: Provides information about managing mental illness and maintaining good mental health, including self-management resources and screening self-tests for wellness, mood, anxiety and risky drinking: heretohelp.bc.ca.
  • Substance Use Services: B.C. has a network of direct and contracted services for people experiencing substance-use challenges, including counselling, needle exchanges, opiate-replacement therapy, and withdrawal management and prevention programs for adults and youth. Call toll-free: 1 866 658-1221.