Thompson Rivers University

Mental health strategies for the holiday season

  Posted on: December 22, 2021

Making a mental health plan can reduce emotional strain and contribute to your overall health and wellness over the holiday season.

Pamela Fry is the Wellness Program Coordinator – Suicide Prevention and works to create meaningful, sustainable, and appropriate support for TRU students.

Whether you are celebrating Christmas or enjoying other holiday traditions, this time of year can be hard on your relationships, finances and emotional wellbeing. Making a mental health plan can reduce emotional strain and contribute to your overall health and wellness. Here’s a list of strategies to help you weather the holiday season.

1. Be mindful of the stressors in your life. It helps alleviate stress to acknowledge or name it. During the holidays, stressors are likely to include additional costs, time constraints, family relationships, increased socialization, academic planning, and so on. Set some limits on the expectations you have for yourself and others.

Try this: A visit to a TRU Counsellor will help you learn more about yourself and how to manage your feelings. Book a confidential appointment by sending an email to studentservices@tru.ca

2. Be willing to change habits or traditions that no longer support your mental health. Remember that just like humans, traditions grow and change over time. Also, it’s OK not to do the holidays the way they have always been done. Our celebrations are so much more meaningful if we adjust them to what our current needs are.

Try this: If you’re away from home, or close to home, but feel alienated by family, creating new rituals with friends or on your own will help you carve your own pathway to a happy and healthy holiday season. Remember that it’s ok

3. Practice saying “no, thank you” to invitations or activities, without the need to justify or apologize. Say “yes” to the activities that you know will bring you joy.

Try this: Of course, sometimes we need to say yes to work or family obligations, so making plans for before and/or after the dreaded task will give you a refreshed focal point. Text a friend or support person so they can help you stay connected during that period.

4. Reflect with gratitude about the gifts you have received during the year and honour yourself for those gifts you have given. This type of unwrapping reveals that we benefit from so much that can’t be found under a Christmas tree: gifts of encouragement and support from our friends, our neighbours, our teachers, time spent in nature, time spent creating, time spent in silence. Write these details down to help you remember what you feel good about in darker times. If this year doesn’t feel like one of your best, focus on what you can feel hopeful about in the future.

Try this: Send a friendly thank you text to someone who won’t be expecting to hear from you. Include a photo of your best smile, silliest pet, or lopsided snowman!

5. Learn to love, or at least appreciate the winter season. As a Secwepemc Elder once told me, “We need all the seasons.” Sure, it’s dark! Sure, it’s cold! Underneath the snow, life is renewing itself for a glorious spring, and this can be our opportunity to do the same.

Try this: Thrift-shop for a cozy, handknit sweater, photograph ice-covered branches, or go carolling with friends! What’s carolling? Learn all about it here. Check out this video for a list of ways to support wellness in the winter months.

If you are feeling like you need emotional support, help is available. Learn about TRU campus supports for mental health by contacting studentservices@tru.ca or earlyalert@tru.ca. Check out TRU Student Life for more tips on managing the holiday season.