By Charlie Carey
As the holiday period begins, common feelings of stress and loneliness are being multiplied by the physical and social isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s normal to feel anxious and afraid. Some of us are struggling more than others. We have to recognize that none of us are the same person we were prior to the pandemic,” said Fraser Health Authority’s psychiatric and physician quality lead, Dr. Marietta Van Den Berg.
While the largest health authority in the province has seen a marked increase in calls to its crisis line, of around 12 per cent since March 2020, the authority is also gearing up to receive its seasonal increase of calls over the holiday season.
“People have lots of difficult or painful memories. Maybe they have no family, maybe they’re homeless, maybe their mood is down a bit, and it’s worse over the darkness of the season,” Van Den Berg said.
The expectations of the holiday period also drive people to seek help. The commercialization and high expectations that marketing places on the holidays can make it especially difficult.
“Even ordinary people who have no have mental health issues feel that they have to create a perfect holiday event. Then they feel like they can’t live up to that,” said Van Den Berg.
In preparation for this time of year, the Fraser Health Authority said that staying connected is vital to combat feelings of isolation and sadness.
Dr. Van Den Berg suggests three practical steps that can be taken over the holiday period to alleviate stress and anxiety:
- Maintain your schedule; it helps to keep the feeling of stability and predictability.
- Stay active; get outside into nature as it is a great healer.
- When waking up, set your hopes and intentions for the day; examples could be baking cookies or calling a friend.
Having hope is also a key recommendation from Van Den Berg. “This will end. All difficult things end. Wars, famines, pandemics, disasters, difficult feelings, winter, everything ends eventually. It is just about staying safe, following the rules, and taking every day as it comes.”
If you’re experiencing mental health challenges over the holiday period, or any time during the year, the Fraser Health Crisis Line can be reached 24 hours a day on 604-951-8855 or toll-free at 1-877-820–7444. Trained volunteers are available to listen and help connect you with the right services and resources.
Healthlink BC is also available, province-wide, at 811.