Emotional Wellness Throughout the Holiday Season

Admin 10 Dec , 2020

Information gathered and prepared by A. Balind MSW, RSW
Clinical Social Worker, Portage Medical Family Health Team

Emotional Wellness Throughout the Holiday Season

There is so much to do at this time of year, that it’s easy for us to feel overwhelmed by it and let anger, frustration, and stress begin to build.  This season looking very different does not help. Making use of and practicing coping skills is essential at this time of year.  Here are a few suggestions that you may wish to try in the coming days and weeks in order to have a meaningful, joyous, and manageable holiday season.

1. Learn to say “No” to others and yourself

  • Prepare a budget for your holiday spending and do not go over it. You don’t have to overspend on gifts, trying to buy the perfect one for each person. Try a card with a special message or something homemade.
  • We often feel a lot of pressure to spend the holidays loved ones but, making sure everyone is healthy and safe. When it is time to attend gatherings and parties, set a definite number to attend and be sure to maintain social distancing and wear a mask when possible. Send out sincere apologies for any events that will have to be missed.
  • Listen and give empathy to each family/friend you speak to about their needs and concerns about the holidays. Everyone is in a different place right now and that is okay. Try and find solutions that everyone is comfortable with and validate how someone is feeling before you give suggestions or solutions.
  • Forget traditions and take a serious look at the holiday practices that you may struggle to maintain. Decide which are not worth the mental, emotional, and physical effort they require. Perhaps begin new and more manageable traditions that surround the most important things and people in your life.

2. Learn to say “Yes”- Do not hesitate to accept help

  • Lean on others for support. A network of close friends and family can help you keep things in perspective. Accept help as it is offered and do not be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
  • One good way to put things into perspective is to volunteer some of you time and energy into a worthy cause. It takes the focus off of you and any holiday anxieties. You can benefit from knowing you are making a difference and doing something that matters.

3. Assign one hour for yourself

  • Treat yourself to something special. It does not have to be anything that cost a great deal of money, but it should be something that includes relaxation and enjoyment. Schedule this time in your calendar and stick to it.  Your mind and body will thank you.

4. Think of different ways to safely spend time with family and friends

  • Connect over social media (Facebook, Zoom, FaceTime, etc.) and play games, decorate a tree or have an ugly sweater party.
  • Send/safely deliver packages to family/friends with cookies to decorate or a craft to make. This can also be done over a video chat together!

5. Talk with family and friends about delaying the holidays

  • It may not be traditional but, making the decision to delay get together and visits until it is safe to do so. It may be exciting and fun to have a summer Christmas! Warm weather is not something we get at Christmas in Canada!
  • Prepare family members of changes to traditions early. Give everyone time to understand their feelings and plan their holidays. This is very important for children so they can realize that it is not their fault that the holidays will be different this year and that they will still be fun!


Walking to Improve Mental Health!

Admin 03 Dec , 2019

Walking to Improve Mental Health!

Information gathered and prepared by W. Bulthuis MSW, RSW
Clinical Social Worker Portage Medical Family Health Team

More and more, research is showing that walking and other physical activity can help us to deal with stress, depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns. Not only is moving good for our physical health, but good for our mental health too.

Stress – We often carry stress in our bodies—tense muscles, back or neck pain, headaches and even tightness in our chest, a pounding pulse and muscle cramps. Worry and discomfort about these can lead to even more stress. Exercise releases endorphins in the brain which help to enhance well-being, and also relaxes muscles and tension in the body. This sends a message to the brain that things are OK.

Depression – Running for 15 minutes per day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%–relieving depression and also preventing relapse.

Anxiety – For anxious people, exercise can induce the physiological experience that is feared (like rapid heart rate) and increase tolerance and comfort with it. As well, exercise releases endorphins which enhance well-being.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other trauma – Exercises that involve cross movement and engage both arms and legs are some of the best choices. You can help your nervous system become unstuck and begin to move out of the immobilization stress response.

Cross movement occurs anytime the left and right sides of our bodies work simultaneously or one side of our body crosses the midline over to the other side. When this happens, the brain is compelled to send signals back and forth from one side to the other. The more times we do this, the stronger these connections become. You are re-integrating your brain and nervous system and reorganizing your mind-body connections!

Try this “Cross-Crawl” – Raise your right knee, reach across your body and touch knee with your left elbow. Raise your left knee, reach across your body and touch knee with right elbow.

Sometimes it is really hard to get started! Here are some tips for you.

Start small – make achievable goals

  • Schedule exercise when your energy is highest
  • Do activities that you enjoy
  • Find a comfortable setting and wear comfortable clothes
  • Reward yourself with a bubble bath, good book, favourite TV show
  • Make it social – bring a friend

References and more reading






Looking for Community Support and Information?

Admin 18 Oct , 2019

Finding free or low-cost community supports and resources can be difficult and overwhelming. There are many different programs and services for people of all ages across the Niagara Region, but knowing how to access them can be tricky. A great first step for anyone is to call or google 211. This is a free, province-wide service, available to anyone via telephone or online to learn about social and human services in your area. You can request specific information from the website, or a phone representative, answering calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week, can direct you to services that help you.

Another useful resource is your community activity guide. Each local municipality has an activity guide in print and it can also be found online. These guides outline different social and recreational activities in your area. Also, your local library often has information on the different programs that they offer along with what may be happening in your community.

Portage Medical Family Health Team staff will also help you find more programs and services in our area. Just ask us!

211 Niagara:

Activity Guide


Information gathered and prepared by Alison B., MSW, RSW
Clinical Social Worker, Portage Medical Family Health Team