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Renewing your mental health during the holiday break

December 22, 2020 — 

Done exams for the term? Handed in all your assignments? What now? Usually at this time of year you would be looking forward to a holiday break filled with ceremony, tradition, or simply something different from academic work — but that may not be the case while we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions that may not allow you to do what you have done in the past or would like to do.

We suggest focusing on what is still available to you and how you can use the time to care for yourself rather than focusing on what you have lost or won’t be able to do. Your holiday break can still be renewing! Below you will find a list of suggestions, tips, and resources to help you have as renewing and engaging a holiday break as possible.

We want to acknowledge that for some of you this holiday break may be very difficult. You may have had someone close to you pass away, due to COVID-19 or other reasons, or this may just be a really painful time of year for you. Know that you are not alone if you’re grieving or not doing well and that there are supports available.

For UM students who have their student health coverage, you can call Empower Me at 1-833-628-5589, 24 hours a day and seven days a week, to get some support. Other counselling resources available for you include those listed on the main page of our website as well as the below resources for managing grief during the holidays:

Suggestions, Tips, and Resources

Normalize the experience of the pandemic and be kind to yourself!

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone and there is nothing wrong with you if you have been negatively impacted! Remember that you are a NORMAL PERSON, having a NORMAL REACTION, to an ABNORMAL TIME. It is the pandemic that is abnormal and unusual, not you!

Be kind to yourself and accept the situation you’re in rather than judging yourself and and consider extending compassion towards yourself. One great resource for self-compassion is from Dr. Kristin Neff.

Also, check out the “Holiday Season and Winter Break Stress Kit” from Georgia Southern University.

Connect with family and friends near and far, from a distance

Human beings are relational creatures and most of us CRAVE social connection. COVID-19 pandemic restrictions will make connection more difficult but you can still spend time with family and friends:

  • Plan in advance to connect with people in your life and do so in way where you can hear their voice like a telephone conversation
  • Look for games you can play “together” while distant using technology such as Jackbox TV
  • Host a “Netflix Party” and watch something “together while distant – then spend time afterward talking about what you watched

CAMH tip sheet on Social Connection in the Era of Physical Distancing

Give back and reach out during the holiday season

The field of Positive Psychology finds that giving to or reaching out to others helps everyone. Simple acts of kindness can have a far-reaching positive impact. Some examples include:

  • A simple telephone call to connect with someone you haven’t spoken to for a while;
  • A written letter to someone in your life;
  • Make food and drop it by for someone or send food to someone’s home;
  • Shovel someone’s walkway, or;
  • Let people merge in traffic.

CAMH tip sheet on How to give back/reach out during holiday season

Establish a healthy daily holiday routine

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone’s routine and we’ve all had to adjust and create new routines. Some of these changes may not have been positive, however. We encourage you to think about the routine you’ve gotten into since the start of the pandemic and consider if you need to make changes such as:

  • Trying to get improved sleep;
  • Trying to eat healthier;
  • Developing a good start of day routine (e.g., if you used to shower after waking and then prepare for the day by having breakfast, dressing… do this now too!). Having the occasional “pajama day” can be relaxing; pajama day every day is not good;
  • Finding something fun and relaxing each day – we’ve got suggestions below!
  • Moving your body each day – it doesn’t matter what this is. Your body wasn’t meant to be stationary for really long periods of time;
  • Getting outside each day to breath the air and see the sun;
  • Talking to someone at least once each day – to hear their voice (texting and email is not sufficient!).
  • Monitoring how much time you’re spending on a “screen” (i.e., your phone, computer, etc.):

Connect with culture and travel from the comfort of your home and keep yourself engaged!

Make a plan for managing virtual classes next term

CAMH Guide to Student Mental Health



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