Best Health

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

- 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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