The holidays are a wonderful time of year for reflection, giving, and love. They are also a time that usually involves a great deal of planning, attending events, and navigating busy parking lots and stores. This side of the holidays is stressful for everyone, and may lead to some feelings that are less-than-jolly.

We’ve put together some tips to help you make the most of this holiday season, and help you keep your name on the “nice” list!

 

1) Prioritize based on what’s important to you.

This tip may sound like common sense, but it’s amazing how lost we can get in “should’s” that aren’t necessarily important to us. “I should attend this event”, “I should send this person a card”, “I should decorate” – sound familiar? When we get lost in “should’s”, we can start to lose sight of whether this activity is truly important to us or if it’s just an obligation we feel we have to fulfill. If we feel it’s an obligation that isn’t necessarily important to us, it may be time to question why we feel it’s an obligation and what purpose it’s fulfilling. If we find that it’s purpose is to make a good impression on others or to cater to others’ opinions, we may want to question why that’s important to us.

2) Plan ahead.

Planning ahead helps to alleviate stress, especially during the holiday season when stress is usually at a peak! If you are planning a shopping trip, make a list of the things you need ahead of time and stick to your list while you are out. If you are hosting a dinner, make a menu and a list of the groceries you need to purchase. Lists help make things more predictable, which minimizes our fear of the unknown.

3) JOMO – Give yourself a break!

JOMO

Similarly to Tip #1, it is sometimes meaningful to forgo events that aren’t as important to you if it means spending more time with those who are important (including yourself!). Making time for a movie night (or day) in can be helpful to reconnect, recharge, and be present with those you love.

4) Stay present.

clark

Have you ever felt like you were on the verge of a Christmas Vacation’s Clark Griswold freak-out? With all of the planning that goes into holidays, it’s important to pause, ground, and reconnect with the present moment from time to time. This can take the form of simply taking three slow, deep breaths. It may also be helpful to try a more formal mindfulness practice, using an app such as Stop, Breathe, Think or Insight Timer. Being present may also mean doing an activity mindfully, such as going for a walk to look at holiday lights or mindfully wrapping gifts.

5) Show gratitude.

With all the hustle and bustle of the season, it is helpful to pause and remember what you are doing this all for. Take time to show gratitude for the things that are important to you, even if it isn’t perfect. It may mean taking mental note of three things you are grateful for, sharing words of appreciation before a meal, or telling someone you love how much they mean to you. Gratitude can be a beautiful way to reconnect with the meaning behind the season, and joy that can be found in the little things.

 

We hope you enjoyed these tips to help you bring a little more presence and peace to your holidays.

We wish you a wonderful holiday season, and a happy and healthy New Year!

 

 

Today is World Mental Health Day. I feel it’s inevitable that the question of “Why?” may come up. Why do we have multiple Mental Health Days / weeks / months? Why do we have to keep talking about this, to keep bringing up a subject that seems so obvious? Are we beating a dead horse?

Let’s first look at some stats for the hard facts:

  • In any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians will personally experience a mental health problem or illness (CAMH)
  • Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for individuals aged 15-29 (WHO)
  • By age 40, 50% of the population will have or have experienced a mental health disorder (CAMH)
  • Approximately 21.6% of Canadians met criteria or a substance use disorder during their lifetime (Statistics Canada)

Do any of these surprise you? What’s more surprising is the fact that many of these statistics are an underestimate, due to many studies not including Aboriginal populations, Armed Forces, homeless individuals, and the fact that many individuals under-report mental illness.

As a therapist working in mental health, I see the faces of people who live this struggle each and every day. I hear the stories about how they haven’t known how to talk about it with someone, or how they have talked about it and were told “Just don’t think about it” or “It’ll be okay”. It is my belief that these words are generally said with intentions of comfort, but that their actual impact is one of feeling invalidated, brushed off, or unheard. This is one of the reasons I think calling attention to mental health so important – so the general population is better-informed with how to acknowledge people when they come forward with a struggle so as not to further invalidate the individual who is struggling.

So what can we say? What is a more helpful response when a friend, coworker, or loved one comes to us with a struggle?

I’m so sorry that you’re going through this.

This must be really hard for you. Do you want to talk more about it?

What is it that is making you feel that way?

I am here for you.

It means a lot to me that you opened up about this.

Is there something I can do to help? 

Do you think it would be helpful to talk to a professional? Can I help you find one?

The key here is sitting with this person and listening, even when it’s uncomfortable. Not immediately trying to problem-solve or fix the situation, because often it is not a problem that can be quickly fixed. Not telling the person they’re okay or they’re going to be okay, because sometimes it’s okay not to be okay. Not being afraid to ask hard questions such as inquiring further if suicide is mentioned. There is a common misconception that talking about suicide may further increase chances of it happening – but really the opposite is true. The more we talk about this uncomfortable thing, the more we open the door for that individual to express how they truly feel. This rings true for any difficult emotion, thought, or feeling.

Today a friend posted on Instagram, “You could ask someone 99 times if they are okay and only receive their cry for help on the 100th response”. This rang so true to me. I’m currently getting over a cold, and have been touched with the amount of times friends and family have texted to ask how I’m feeling. Why can’t we do the same for mental health?

WE CAN!

Ask if someone doesn’t seem like themselves. Ask if someone seems quiet. Ask if someone cancels coming to events frequently. Ask if someone doesn’t show up for work. Ask if someone makes an off-hand joke about killing themselves. Ask if you have a gut feeling but outside everything seems okay. Ask just for the sake of asking!

It never hurts to ask – even if it takes 99 times.

 

Statistic Links:

CAMH: https://cmha.ca/about-cmha/fast-facts-about-mental-illness

WHO: http://www.who.int/mental_health/world-mental-health-day/2018/en/

Statistics Canada: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-624-x/2013001/article/11855-eng.htm

Kayleen Edwards, MA, RP 

With Thanksgiving coming up this weekend, we wanted to write about some ways that you may incorporate gratitude into your daily routine. It’s no surprise that gratitude practice has positive benefits on how we feel (Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Watkins et al., 2003). It’s great that we have a day dedicated to gratitude on thanksgiving, but we may also want to work at incorporating gratitude into our everyday routines.

Here are some ways that you may incorporate gratitude into your day:

  • Before reaching for your phone or stepping out of bed in the morning, call to mind three things you are grateful for. If you are having troubles thinking of things right away, notice what you’re grateful for in your surroundings. Maybe it’s having a roof over your head, how comfy your bed is, or a special photo in your surroundings.
  • Use a gratitude app and set reminders to record things you’re grateful for throughout the day. Some examples of gratitude apps are Greatful: A Gratitude Journal, or Gratitude Journal 365. If you’d rather do it yourself, create a note on your phone to record things you feel grateful for throughout the day.
  • Write a letter to someone you love telling them things you appreciate about them, and how much they mean to you. Then, hand-deliver it to them or send it in the mail. Writing a gratitude letter has been shown to increase people’s happiness and life satisfaction, while decreasing depressive symptoms (Toepfer, Cichy, & Peters, 2012).
  • When your family is gathered for dinner, take turns each expressing something you are grateful for from the day. Research has demonstrated that expressing gratitude to a partner can make individuals feel that their relationship is stronger than those who do not practice expressing gratitude (Lambert, Clark, Durtschi, Fincham, & Graham, 2010).
  • Be on the lookout for small things during your day to feel grateful for. Whether it’s a smile from a stranger, a piece of artwork in a building, a beautiful tree outside, or a sunny day – take time to stop and smell the roses!

 

Which of these do you think might work for your routine? Whatever the shape or form, we hope these tips were helpful to find a routine where you can express your gratitude throughout your days.

This Thanksgiving, we are grateful for our families, friends, clients, and you, the reader – thank you for coming on this journey with us.

 

References

Emmons, R., and McCullough, M. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective wellbeing in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389.

Lambert, N., Clark, M., Durtschi, J., Fincham, F., and Graham, S. (2010). Benefits of expressing gratitude. Psychological Science, 21(4), 574-580.

Toepfer, S., Cichy, K., and Peters, P. (2012). Letters of gratitude: Further evidence for author benefits. Journal of Happiness Studies, 13(1), 187-201.

Watkins, P., Woodward, K., Stone, T., and Kolts, R. (2003). Gratitude and happiness: Developmental of a measure of gratitude and relationships with subjective well-being. Social Behavior and Personality, 31(5), 431-452.

Kayleen Edwards, RP, MA

Hearing the term “self care” can trigger an automatic eye roll from some, who think of self care as the cliche bubble bath, face mask, or other stereotypical things they may have seen in media. Self care seems to be a buzzword these days, with more and more people using it on social media, television, and marketing. But what does self care actually mean?

To us, self care is something that you do to be a good friend to yourself. Self care activities are things that make you feel recharged, energized, and more like yourself. These activities can come in many shapes and forms. The examples below are just a starting point for the possibilities of self care activities that you may do.

Self Care Ideas

Physical Relationships Creativity Spiritual
·Go for a walk

·Try a yoga YouTube video

·Join a house league for a sport of your choice

·Have a dance party in your kitchen

· Have a warm bath

·Do stretches

·Make a warm cup of tea

·Organize something in your home

·Go to bed early to get 8 hours of sleep

·Get a Massage

·Drink more water

·Spend time in the sun

·Text someone

·Call someone

·Go for coffee

·Tell someone how you feel

·Tell someone why you appreciate them

·Cuddle with a loved one

·Create boundaries – say “no” and express your needs

·Turn off your phone after a certain time

·Limit time on social media

·Play a board game with loved ones

·Go on a date with your significant other

· Journal

·Get an adult colouring book

·Paint

·Make a card for someone

·Look up and make a new recipe

·Take art lessons

·Take dance lessons

·Repurpose an object

·Learn a new skill on YouTube

·Visit the library or book store

·Start a blog

·Work on a home project

·Do some gardening

 

·Spend time in nature

·Meditate

·Pray

·Journal

·Listen to meaningful music

·Find and listen to podcasts that inspire you

·Look up and save inspirational quotes

·Visit a sacred place

·Create a sacred place in your home with candles or scents

·Watch the sunrise or sunset

·Help someone

·Volunteer

 

Did any of these surprise you? Are there some that you are already doing, but never thought of it as self care?

Our challenge to you is to pick at least one of these activities to do for yourself each day. It doesn’t have to be a daunting process that requires a great deal of time and energy! Even one small self care activity like ensuring you’re getting enough water or sitting outside can make the world of a difference.

Kayleen Edwards, MA, RP

kayleen@rootsinwellness.ca