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Tips to deal with holiday stress after a chaotic year

With many British Columbians ready to put 2021 behind them, mental health experts are providing some suggestions on how to manage pressure and stress this holiday season.

The last year has been filled with chaos, catastrophe and crises.

From record-breaking heat to wildfires, widespread flooding, the COVID-19 pandemic and toxic drug supplies, 2021 has impacted British Columbians and tested their patience. 

That’s why, during this holiday season, mental health experts are reaching out to share some suggestions on how to deal with stress. 

BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services Psychologist Dr. Sean Butler recognizes this year has been challenging.

"This season feels like a lot to me; I don’t know if it does for you or for anybody else,” he says. "It kind of feels like everything is happening.”

During this time of year, he says people are expected to be happy and juggle the holiday stress. However, each individual deals with stress differently.

Butler suggests that if you have someone close to you, lean on them for support. 

“Whether that is family or friends or anybody, and you feel willing to have a conversation with them about what is going on… Having someone else to reflect that back to you can be really helpful.”

If there isn’t someone who can be helpful in this regard, he recommends reaching out to a professional. 

“Especially if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or these emotions or experiences are causing you difficulties, it might be the time to have a chat with your doctor,” he says. 

Another challenging part of the holiday season is routine and structure that can disappear when people are not working.

“While that can be a nice break for people that can also mean less stability and more uncertainty,” he says. 

Butler suggests trying to keep some routines. 

"Look to the things that you can keep in your life that can still be consistent. Are there things that you can continue to structure and do for yourself?” he says.

Making sure you get enough sleep and physical activity are all important things to keep in mind, he adds. Getting outside doesn't hurt either.

If you or someone you know is struggling, there are supports, including a 24-hour crisis support line at 310-6789.