Blog - Managing Mental Health Through the Holidays

The holiday season is often a pivotal time of year and a period of celebration and togetherness. The dizzying array of responsibilities and demands may leave many people feeling stressed or anxious. For others, it may also be a time of extreme loneliness, isolation and depression.

By being balanced, planning, seeking and offering support, we can help minimize these potential problems for ourselves and others.

“One reason for concern is the time of year. With less natural daylight compared to summertime, many people suffer from ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ and vitamin D deficiency, both of which adversely affect mood and energy levels,” says Dr. Deji Ayonrinde, Providence Care’s Clinical Director for Community Mental Health programs. “It’s also a time of self-reflection and evaluation for many of us, which can cause regret and anxiety. Thankfully, the treatments are quite simple – a special indoor lamp that simulates natural daylight, the use of vitamin D supplements and a balanced approach to any New Year’s resolutions or big life decisions.”

For those impacted by loneliness and isolation, it’s important to try and speak with someone you feel comfortable with. Connecting in person is ideal, but phone and video calls will help too. But it’s important each of us remains vigilant and reaches out to anyone who may need our help.

“The responsibility is on each of us in our community to reach out to anyone who may be struggling. That smile, hello or short phone call might make a world of difference to someone else,” says Dr. Ayonrinde. “For those that have them, pets can also help improve our well-being. Walking a dog, for instance, offers natural daylight, exercise and opportunities to be mindful, to observe nature, and even interact with others. It can create a completely different biorhythm that helps you relax. All of this on top of the benefits that pet companionship brings to combat loneliness.” 

Maintaining healthy habits, such as eating well, getting plenty of sleep, exercising and avoiding excessive tobacco, alcohol and other substances, is very helpful. Perhaps the most important thing is learning to recognize your holiday triggers and taking action early to counter them. Preventing stress is often a lot easier than treating it.

“It’s important you recognize that some negative feelings may be natural and normal, even during the holidays and especially when combined with the uncertainty of a pandemic,” says Dr. Ayonrinde. “If any feelings cause you extreme distress or affect your sleep or relationships, it’s worth speaking with your family physician. There are a number of things they can do to help.”

If you need help, don’t be afraid to reach out. If you think of someone who needs help act now. Through the community spirit, Kingston is known for, perhaps we can all find peace and joy during the holidays.