Anyone who follows CMHA Kelowna and Foundry Kelowna on social media platforms such at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn will be familiar with our mental health for the holiday’s posts. Our goal is to provide everyone with the resources they require to enjoy good mental health during what can be a wonderful time of year for many – but very stressful for others.
So we recently sat down and spoke with Aaron Kimberly, who works with the CMHA Kelowna Virtual Counselling Program for adults to find out are some of the common themes he is hearing.
“For a lot of people, Christmas time or the holidays are a joyous and exciting time. But it can also be a disruption to our day-to-day lives, and adds things to our lives such as shopping and cooking and planning and travelling,” says Kimberly. “Whatever the person is coming to counselling for, we’re seeing an intensification of that because of the holidays. Whether they’ve sought counselling because of conflict in the family, the loss of somebody significant to them, or isolation because of COVID, all of that gets intensified because of Christmas.”
Kimberly believes there are a lot of factors at play.
“It brings up a lot of feelings where people maybe lost their jobs through the pandemic, or because Christmas is an expensive time of year and they’re not sure how to make ends meet, and then just the disruption to people’s routines,” he adds. “Sometimes people forget to take care of themselves, and to pace themselves and be realistic about their own limits – whether that’s financial, physical or social limits.”
The holidays can provide people with the opportunity to visit with family and friends, with the thrill of watching a loved one open a Christmas present, and with a break from their hectic work schedule.
The holidays can also put people into a situation they’re not accustomed to or are unsure what to expect, such as attending Christmas celebrations.
“In that situation, it’s not necessarily that there’s known conflict, it’s just feeling afraid of a new social situation or large crowds. A lot of that has to do with social anxiety, and we can use some cognitive behavioral sort of tools to manage their thought process around those situations so they’re not imagining worst-case scenarios – but sort of rehearsing worst-case scenarios in their head, and managing their thoughts,” says Kimberly, who is a registered nurse and works as a mental health nurse with CMHA Kelowna. “Often times, it’s a person’s thoughts that are driving their anxiety, not necessarily the situation itself. We want to be aware of our thought process, and keep that within a realistic line of thinking, so we’re not creating stress for ourselves that’s unnecessary.”
Kimberly also addresses the importance of self-care.
“We’re busy shopping or cooking or visiting with friends, and we sometimes forget we still have needs as individuals,” says Kimberly. “We need to take better care of ourselves and be intentional about what we’re doing for ourselves, rather than neglecting ourselves because we’re distracted by those other things going on.
“Think about how you can build something into each day that’s going to be refreshing and rejuvenating and giving you balance and good mental health – and scheduling that and prioritizing that into your schedule over the next couple weeks.”
Taking into account COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, expensive airline travel, and road closures, not everyone has family and friends to share the holidays with.
Kimberly has some suggestions.
“There’s volunteer opportunities, and doing things like helping to prepare or serve a meal to people who may be homeless. To serve the community can be a way of feeling connected,” says Kimberly. “And a lot of people are making creative uses of social media, like Zoom, and inviting people to have a meal together even though you’re all doing it through Zoom. It’s being creative about ways that we can still connect with people who maybe are not physically present with us.”
If you are feeling the stress of the holidays, there is help.
- You can book an adult virtual counseling session by calling 236-420-2803, or check out: https://cmhakelowna.com/programs-and-services/virtual-counselling/
- Take a look at our Holiday Mental Health Tips on our website here: https://cmhakelowna.com/holidayblues/
- Listen to Episode 14, or our podcast What Really Works? hosts Beki and Olivia chat about why the holiday season can be stressful and filled with tough emotions. From grief to hardships, to our personal expectations of festivities, you’ll hear not only validation of why this time of the year can be difficult for some, but also what tools we can use to support ourselves.
- Review our list of mental health resources here: https://cmhakelowna.com/mental-health/find-help-now/