"Self-care and compassion" important tools in handling holiday stress

Dec 20 2019, 4:33 pm

While the holidays are a time of celebration and being with loved ones, the season can also bring added stress and challenges for many.

According to one expert, sometimes part of the solution is just “being kinder to yourself,”

Dr. Ingrid Söchting, Clinical Associate Professor with the Department of Psychiatry at UBC and Director of the UBC Psychology Clinic, says the holidays are a time that can put an emphasis on personal hardships.

“In addition to losses and tragedies that may have happened before the holidays or in this year, there are also the more ordinary difficulties that can be exaggerated at Christmas,” Söchting told Daily Hive.

As people come together with loved ones and extended family over the holidays, many of the difficulties experienced at this time of year have to do with family dynamics.

“We could all benefit from lowering expectations because we tend to have high expectations about how wonderful it would be to come together as a family, and we forget that whatever dynamics and tensions that were there before are likely to still be there,” says Söchting.

“We often get terribly disappointed that people haven’t changed, and we may have changed, and we have full control over ourselves, but we can never change other people.”

Dr. Söchting said it’s important to remember the control you have over yourself, and to show yourself some extra kindness during this time of year.

Setting firm boundaries is a good way to show yourself care this season, and Dr. Söchting provided some examples.

“You have a right to say no thank you. Some people feel bad saying no if they’re being offered sweets, or if they’re the first ones to leave a gathering, or limiting alcohol,” says Söchting.

The BC Government is also reminding people of the resources available to help individuals deal with the additional stress experienced during the holiday season.

“Even during the ‘most wonderful time of the year,’ it’s okay to not be okay,” said the BC Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions in a release.

A number of government services and helplines are available during the holidays and range from services for youth to substance abuse and mental health.

A full list of these services is available on the Government of BC website.

For Söchting, one of the most important reminders for the holiday season is remembering that things don’t need to be perfect.

“We get caught up in the images and in social media, but be compassionate towards yourself,” she said.

“This may be a time to be extra kind to yourself, and give yourself a gift of some good self-care and self-compassion.”