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The holidays, COVID-19 and mental health: Tips to help guide you through a pandemic-heavy holiday season

person wearing red mittens holding mug of hot chocolate

Whether or not December is a time of holidays for you, there is no doubt that this year will be different. COVID-19 has left many of us feeling depleted, and for good reason.  Experiencing a chronic crisis is exhausting and leads to wear and tear on our body and our morale. Whether or not

When we are depleted it is important to proactively set up or create activities that are good for our wellness.

Woman looking out a window

Although you may not be able to recharge completely, every little bit helps. Here are tips to help get through a COVID-19 December.

  • Space for uncomfortable or painful emotions. if you are experiencing grief, loss, anger, frustration, worry, fear, sadness, or others, it is important to give yourself time to acknowledge these feelings. Labelling emotions reduces the intensity of the experience by 80%. Try to let the emotions pass through you, like riding a wave, instead of trying to push them away.
  • Light: Evidence has shown that decreased sunshine can have a negative effect on mood and energy levels. During the winter, try to capitalize on sunny moments, inside or outside. Additionally, using a full spectrum light may help to fight the winter blues.
  • Gratitude: Even in the most difficult times, focusing on gratitude has benefits for wellness. This could be done by sending gratitude messages to others or creating a ritual of naming what you are grateful for on a daily basis (e.g.: at dinner or bedtime). You may surprised that this leads to a spiral of gratitude that feels so good.
A man sitting on a couch playing a guitar
  • Creativity: Creativity can engage the body and the mind. We experience positive emotions through art, music, dance, baking, sports, etc. Creativity can be big or small, whether it’s paint by numbers or oil painting, learning a new song or listening to your favorite tunes. Making space for things that you are passionate about may lift your mood.
  • Giving to others: The positive impact of giving to others can last longer than giving to yourself. Did you know that the act of giving stimulates the reward centre in the brain, and that’s why it feels so good? Because this year is different, and many people are struggling, look for opportunities to give. This may represent a donation, giving of your time, or making something for someone else.

Just remember that when you find yourself in situations where you don’t have control, try to find small areas where you do have control. As you reflect on how you will approach December, it is important to scale your expectations to your energy levels and be compassionate with yourself and others in these unusual times.

Want to know more about how to maintain your mental health during COVID-19? Komal Shaikh is a neuropsychology resident at The Ottawa Hospital. She shares tips for managing cognitive struggles during the pandemic, and how to recognize when they may become a larger mental health issue on a new episode of On Call: The Ottawa Hospital Podcast

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This website gives you common facts, advice and tips. Some of it may not apply to you. Please talk to your doctor, nurse or other health-care team member to see if this information will work for you. They can also answer your questions and concerns.