Self care is important, especially during the holidays

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Dr. Heather Keizer, the Island's Chief Mental Health and Addictions Officer says self care is paramount during the holidays.

In what is supposed to be the “hap - happiest” season of all, it’s tough to feel sad during the holidays.

But for many who struggle with mental health and addictions issues, the holidays can lead to unpleasant memories, substance abuse, dysfunctional family dynamics, anxiety, and depression.

“It can be a highly triggering time,” says Dr. Heather Keizer, chief of mental health and addictions services for PEI.  “For people who may have grown up with alcohol abuse, chaos, and disappointment at Christmas – the music, the smell of eggnog, Christmas lights -  these things can trigger unpleasant flashbacks. People who already feel behind the 8-ball in terms of having a happy family, can find it all very difficult.”

Dr. Keizer’s advice? Find ways – other than another drink, overeating, or overspending – to make it all more livable.

“Self care and setting boundaries with family is so important,” Dr. Keizer said. “That desire to meet everyone else’s needs can leave you feeling horrible after.”

Instead, she says, the season should be all about self care and what makes you feel at peace.

She recommends doing things that work for you, like volunteering at a mission or food bank or visiting a lonely senior. If you have to deal with a difficult family setting, arrive late and leave early. Plan to take some downtime afterwards to decompress.

“Maybe you just want to snuggle down with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book, or take a walk outside. There is nothing wrong with saying ‘no’ to things that won’t support your mental health and well being,” Dr. Keizer said. “Often people who over-extend themselves emotionally and financially will end up seeking mental health services.”

Mental health walk-in clinics are available to help people struggling with anxiety, as well as life events causing stress and other mental health issues. The list of walk-in clinics will be updated regularly as the schedule changes over the holidays.  

The Island Helpline 1-800-218-2885 (toll-free). Available 24-hours, seven days a week.
Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 (toll-free). Available 24 hours, seven days a week

Learn more about mental health and addictions services available in communities across PEI.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate assistance, go to the nearest hospital or call 911.

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