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Give yourself the gift of mental health

Ashcroft Cache Creek Journal - 12/19/2018

The holiday season is often viewed as a time filled with fond childhood memories, happy family traditions, and joyful events.

Although most of us have some happy times during the holidays, many of us also experience more difficult emotions, such as loneliness, stress, depression, and anxiety.

This time of year brings up vulnerabilities such as memories of loved ones that we especially miss during holidays, recent break-ups, challenging family relationships, financial difficulty, being alone, and difficult childhood memories of this holiday.

Beyond these issues, December's hectic pace is enough to cause stress, anxiety, and frustration.

It is possible to keep ourselves mentally well in the midst of excessive holiday cheer. Here are seven tips from Interior Health counsellors Seija Emond, Team Leader for the Cedar Sage Health and Wellness Clinic, and Grant Heindl, Team Leader for Interior Health's Adult Short-Term Assessment and Treatment Services.

1. Keep it simple: Start with the end result in mind. Ask yourself "How do I want to be feeling after the holidays?" and then "What do I have to do to end up feeling that way?" If possible, do more things that will help you achieve that end result.

2. Make a plan: To look after yourself, be intentional and make time for self-reflection. Remember that you don't have to be involved in everything. Plan a support system—have people you can connect with if you need to talk or reach out for help.

3. Set realistic expectations: Expect things will not be perfect. Expect others to behave as they normally do. Expect not everything will go as planned. When we are busy wishing things were different, we may miss moments that bring joy.

4. Balance self-care with caring for others: Make time for yourself while making time for others.

5. Avoid triggers: When it is possible, skillfully avoid those people and places that trigger negative emotions and memories for you.

6. Limit the use of alcohol and drugs.

7. Survive: Sometimes we won't be able to have a "holly jolly Christmas." If we make it through with ourselves and our relationships intact, we have succeeded. This year, take a step back, pause, and breathe. Try something different. Be well.

If you are struggling, call the Interior Crisis Line at 1-888-353-2273. The crisis line is available 24 hours a day, including Christmas day. For information about mental health services, visit www.interiorhealth.ca.