I’M NOT FEEL­ING FES­TIVE. CAN I SKIP THE PARTY CIR­CUIT?

Best Health - - ADVICE - EL­IZ­A­BETH WIENER AND LISA BROOKMAN El­iz­a­beth Wiener is an ed­u­ca­tor who lives with de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety. Lisa Brookman is a clin­i­cal psy­chother­a­pist based in Mon­treal. To­gether, they form WiseWomenCanada.com @wisewomencanada

Twin­kling lights abound, spir­its are high and hol­i­day cheer is tan­gi­ble. De­cem­ber is the month where we’re ex­pected to put on our party shoes, toast to the New Year and revel in the com­pany of friends and fam­ily. But for those who strug­gle with their men­tal health, the cel­e­bra­tions and ex­pec­ta­tions of the sea­son can feel over­whelm­ing, and avoid­ing par­ties al­to­gether may seem like the best op­tion. With care­ful plan­ning, there are ways to en­joy the hol­i­days that aren’t lim­ited to hi­ber­nat­ing solo with a Net­flix marathon.

EL­IZ­A­BETH SAYS...

I STRUG­GLE WITH SO­CIAL ANX­I­ETY, AND THE thought of a party com­prised of strangers and small talk is both in­tim­i­dat­ing and scary. I choose my so­cial in­vi­ta­tions care­fully. Big cel­e­bra­tions are not my thing, but smaller get-to­geth­ers with close friends and fam­ily feel warm and com­fort­ing. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t feel ob­li­gated to say yes to ev­ery in­vi­ta­tion. Choose wisely and cel­e­brate with com­pany that makes you feel com­fort­able.

Plan­ning my own hol­i­day get-to­geth­ers helps me en­joy the hol­i­day sea­son. Fo­cus­ing on the menu, dec­o­ra­tions and mu­sic playlist is a won­der­ful di­ver­sion, and be­ing in charge of my own guest list makes me feel in con­trol. There’s com­fort in know­ing what to ex­pect and joy in cel­e­brat­ing with the peo­ple I know and love.

Some­times cel­e­brat­ing solo is the right ticket. I like to prac­tise self-care dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son by treat­ing my­self to a spa treat­ment, a trip to the movies or a brisk walk among the twin­kling hol­i­day lights. Tak­ing a breather from the crowds and the hus­tle and bus­tle of the sea­son helps me find peace and bal­ance at a very over­whelm­ing time.

LISA SAYS...

DON’T GIVE IN TO THE TEMP­TA­TION to bury your­self un­der the cov­ers un­til Jan­uary. Avoid­ance may feel like an easy way out, but chal­leng­ing your­self to step out­side of your com­fort zone can be ex­actly the pos­i­tive re­in­force­ment you need. Don’t de­cline ev­ery in­vi­ta­tion. Pick and choose a few spe­cial events – you might just be sur­prised at how much fun you’ll have.

If you’re an­tic­i­pat­ing feel­ing anx­ious or de­pressed, be proac­tive and sched­ule an ap­point­ment with your ther­a­pist sev­eral weeks ahead of time. Talk­ing about your stresses and learn­ing cop­ing strate­gies can help you deal with neg­a­tive feel­ings if they arise.

Con­sider giv­ing back. Vol­un­teer­ing gives us an op­por­tu­nity to help oth­ers, makes us feel pur­pose­ful and takes the fo­cus off our own life stresses. Vol­un­teer­ing is an­other op­por­tu­nity to share the hol­i­days with oth­ers with­out the pres­sure of the party scene.

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