Ensuring mental health throughout the holidays

By Jack Veitch

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The thermostat slowly drops, snow starts to fall and people are bundling up. Wrapped in their favourite scarves, mittens and toques, people are venturing out into the brisk Canadian winter to take on the day.

Plans are being made for dinners and parties; children are scribbling down hand-written lists with hopes of receiving that one perfect gift. For many, the start of the holiday season means feelings of joy, hope and warmth. For others, it can be a completely different experience.

While many of us are starting to plan our holiday events, others are trying to cope. This time of year can evoke feelings of stress and unrest. Those less fortunate may not have a place to go, or gifts to give and receive. Many others still, may be looking for ways to manage feelings of depression or anxiety. When the holiday season can feel like too much, what can be done to stay well? Sometimes it’s as simple as reaching out.

The Four County Crisis line has been in operation for over 11 years. Receiving over 13,000 calls a year (nearly 38 calls per day), this phone line looks to help anyone experiencing mental distress or a mental health crisis. Calling this line for absolutely free, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.  This service is available to all residents in the City of Kawartha Lakes.

Even if it’s not a crisis situation, sometimes a person still requires support. There are programs available to help. In the fall of 2017, the provincial government announced the rollout of the Bounce Back program for all residents of Ontario. Bounce Back is a correspondence-based program, built around a model of support called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Using the principles of CBT, participants can work to improve mood, manage feelings of anger or even reduce stress. The best part about this program, is that for anybody 15 years of age or older, with your physician’s referral, you can access it for free. Free, government funded psychotherapy. For someone experiencing stress during this time of year, bouncebackontario.ca may be a fantastic way to start feeling better.

Having strong mental health doesn’t always mean accessing professional supports, or grinding through workbooks. Sometimes it’s as simple as a lifestyle change. Simple things like a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, socializing with others or even finding purpose in each day. All of these things have been clinically proven to improve wellness. Look to see what’s happening in our community. There are social clubs that meet to play cards, exercise groups that get out and walk together, and volunteer activities at local shelters or soup kitchens. It’s a piece of community and social involvement that can help your brain to be and stay well. It’s often getting out and giving back that can end up giving ourselves the most joy.

The snow may be starting to pile up and the temperature dropping to shivering lows, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still work towards wellness. Whatever it is you do to stay well, make it a part of your holiday routine. Wishing everyone a happy holiday season and mental health for all.

–Jack Veitch is manager of Community Engagement and Education at CMHA, Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge.

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