December is upon us. The move towards the end of the year can be exciting at times, but can also be a major source of stress.
The team at Whole Heart has identified some common stressors along with some helpful tips for coping:
Many students have not yet had the experience of writing in-person exams due to the pandemic. Preparing for closed book/in-person exams for the first time can feel overwhelming and cause stress. To help alleviate stress, having a plan that involves proven memory and learning strategies, good organization, and a schedule that includes breaks and adequate sleep and nutrition is key.
A supportive study group can also help. Whole Heart’s December Study Skills Group (beginning December 6) is designed to help students acquire the strategies and skills needed to feel ready for their in-person exams.
Social situations can make people anxious at any time, and the holidays can add a new layer!
How to cope? Try to shift focus from how things “should be” to how they are. Before the event: think about the things you have liked in the past when you see friends or family.
People tend to focus on what could go wrong, but what about the things that have gone well?
In the event: Use your five senses to calm a busy mind and shift focus into the present moment and stay grounded. Notice things you can hear, things you can taste, things you can smell, things you can touch, things you can see.
Take breaks from a crowded room if and when you feel it’s needed.
If you’re hosting a gathering, keep it simple; invite guests to take part by planning a pot luck.
Year-end at work
You may be counting down the days until your office closes for a holiday, but for many people calendar year-end is their busiest time of year. Getting to the holidays may feel exhausting as the pressure mounts to deliver on quotas or reports, meet the seasonal rush or wrap up projects.
This is an important time to practice self-care. Get sleep, limit caffeine and alcohol, shut screen time off well before bed, eat nourishing foods and get outside or exercise!
Prioritize the work that must be done before end of year and where possible, delegate, partner or look to your supervisor to help identify alternative strategies to manage what’s on your plate.
Set up your out of office auto response early, to let others know that you will follow up with any non-urgent needs in the new year.
Keep this time feeling more manageable by creating lists of what must be done and setting smaller goals among the large ones so that you can see your movement forward.
Some of you are staying home, and others may travel during the holidays. Travelling with anxious kids can be a challenge. Moving from structured to more unstructured time can be especially stressful for those children who function best with consistent routines.
Meditation and mindfulness during these moments can also help you feel more in control. Whole Heart offers drop-in meditation classes for relaxation and an Introduction to Mindfulness for Teens.
This may be a time where some flexibility with screen time can be helpful.
For example, new guidance from the Canadian Paediatric Society encourages parents to prioritize educational, interactive and age-appropriate screen time – a move away from previous recommendations that set a strict limit.
Remember that the shifts and changes that come out of breaking routine are temporary! Focus on the larger goal of spending time, building memories and enjoying being together.
Gift giving and gatherings can create new or added financial strain and it’s hard for some people to say “no” to participating in gift exchanges or other festive expenses. This year especially, Canadians are feeling the pressure of rising costs and recent news reports indicate consumers plan to spend less this season.
Alleviate stress by asking for or setting budget limits, or getting creative with handmade gifts, re-gifting or pot-lucks where possible.
Reflecting Back and Projecting Forward
It’s normal and natural to reflect back as we close out the year – and some people participate in making resolutions for the year ahead; the thoughts and feelings associated with both of these actions can impact your mental health.
Try to focus on and stay grounded in the present. Notice your breathing, notice your senses. You can also identify things for which you are grateful and focus on the feeling of gratitude.
Ultimately the stresses of the season may be with us, but remember that you have made it through another year and faced challenges successfully, learned and grown. Take a moment to be proud of yourself or tell your child or teen that you’re proud of them as well!
The team at Whole Heart wishes you and your family the very best this holiday season. To learn about our programs and services go to: https://wholeheartmentalhealth.com/services/