What to do when the holidays aren't happy

By Cecilia Nasmith

This is the time of year everyone wishes everyone else happy holidays, but not everyone finds it a festive season.

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit has issued a press release offering 10 ways to deal with the stress and depression that cloud the season for many local residents.

These feelings are commonplace for those juggling demands and oversized expectations amid hectic schedules.

Public health nurse Marisa Curran listed holiday parties, gift buying, family get-togethers, overexcited children, extra meal planning and financial concerns as some of the most common stresses.

“All of these added pressures can lead to frayed nerves, short fuses, damaged relationships and depression which has an impact on people’s health,” Curran said.

“Trying to reduce stress before it takes an emotional toll can pay off, and you might find you start to enjoy the holidays.”

The press releases included these suggestions to reduce stress.

• Show your feelings. If someone close to you has recently passed away or you’re unable to be with family over the holidays, it's okay to show and share your grief and emotions.

• Reach out to others, especially if you are feeling lonely or isolated. Seek out community or social events that can offer support and companionship. Volunteering to help others can also lift your spirits and make you feel more connected.

• Be realistic about the holidays. The festive season; it doesn’t have to be perfect – as family dynamics change, holiday traditions and rituals will too. Hold on to a few traditions, and be open to new ones.

• Set aside differences with family and friends. Accept others as they are and, if possible, set aside grievances until a more appropriate time. If necessary, limit time spent socializing with loved ones if these situations make you feel anxious or angry.

• Stick to a budget. Deciding how much you can afford to pay for gifts reduces the financial strain (and related stress and anxiety) on your family. Gifts don't buy happiness so show your love in creative ways – perhaps with a gift of time, such as spending a day with a loved one or teaching a child a new hobby or skill.

• Just as you budget your money, budget your time. Set aside specific days to shop, bake, decorate, visit or do other activities. Plan meals in advance and line up what you’ll need to buy. Don’t be afraid to ask for help to prepare for or clean up from parties and meals.

• Learn to say no. Agreeing to take part in a project or activity for which you have no time can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Set realistic expectations for what you can do over the holidays. Seek balance and try not to overdo it.

• Make time for the people who matter most in your life. Rather than rushing around, arrange for quality-time pursuits like outdoor winter activities with the children or a date night with your partner.

• Don’t abandon your health. Eat healthy, with an occasional holiday treat and portion control on the radar. Get enough sleep, and try to be active every day. Make time for yourself to recharge from the holiday bustle by taking a walk, listening to music or reading a book.

• Seek professional help if required. Despite your best efforts, you may still feel sad, anxious, stressed or unable to cope. If these feelings persist, speak to your health-care provider or a mental-health professional. Locally, the Canadian Mental Health Association ( provides a free 24/7 professional crisis support line at 1-866-995-9933.