OPINION: Staying positive, connected key to maintaining mental health this holiday

by | Nov 27, 2020 | Commentary, Opinion

The year 2020 has changed everything that we know and love, but specifically how we celebrate holidays. The food, the get-togethers, the experiences, the moments spent. All that must come to a halt due to COVID-19.

This has impacted the mental wellbeing of people across the world. It’s being acutely felt in Ontario as it enters its second lockdown of the year and Christmas is less than a month away. The stress of not being able to travel and see the ones you love most could be putting a strain on some.

While everyone is vulnerable to an impact on their mental health, younger people appear to be even more at risk.

A recent study from the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations said 55 per cent of students were concerned about the effect of learning from home will or has had on their mental health. Statistics Canada also said more than 50 per cent of people reported their mental health was in a worse place when the shutdown was in its infancy last May.

All of this was before the holidays took place. In 2014, the National Alliance on Mental Illness reported more than 60 per cent of people who already had mental health issues got worse during the holidays.

Those numbers were reported during a normal holiday season, much less one where we have to stay away from family and isolate ourselves.

This situation has taken a personal toll on me. Realizing I can’t see my grandparents like I do every year for Christmas is heartbreaking. Multiple thoughts cross my mind, like what if this isn’t solved by next year? What if this just becomes the new normal?

There’s a quote that has stuck with me while I’ve been writing this. “It’s okay not to be okay during the holiday season.”

I know there are people in the world that are going through the motions right now believing nothing is going their way. You are not alone.

There are multiple options that can help you during times like this. Talking to a friend or a family member can help. Even if it’s to say hi, staying connected with them helps.

Therapy is also an option, talking to helplines or even therapists over the phone about your problems can help you see that they’re better things ahead.

Making sure to go outside and exercise, focus on spirituality, the list goes on and on, giving everyone the opportunity to find something and use that to go forward.

This year may be different for a lot of people during the holidays. Remember, it’s okay to not be okay during the holiday season. Have a positive outlook and realize that things will get better.

It just takes time.