Coping with sadness and depression during the holidays

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Not everyone is looking forward to the holidays. Newcomers who are alone for the first time may feel more alone and sad during the season.

Other reasons why the holidays can be gloomy:

Immigrants who have been here for years can also get lonely this time of year. Some may be thinking about family and friends back home. Others can be feeling negative about their life here.

Others may be sad because they:

  • feel pressured to attend many parties and merry-making this season.
  • have worries about career or money.
  • are experiencing culture-shock.
  • are affected by winter. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a kind of depression caused by lack of bright light during the winter months.
  • cabin fever due to current public health directives because of COVID-19.

Tips to get over the holiday blues

  1. Connect and stay in touch – Use Skype or Face Time. Talk to your family and friends. Join your family’s Christmas dinner virtually.
  2. Be realistic – We all get sentimental around this time. Media idealizes the holidays. Photos on social media can also make you feel that you are missing out. But this is not a complete picture. The holidays are not the only time to be happy with family and friends. Think about what the season really means for you and create you own happiness.
  3. Stay busy – Staying home alone will make you more sad. Be active instead.
    • Volunteer – Help your community or church. Many charities are looking for volunteers this time of year. Do gift-wrapping or help out in the kitchen. Volunteer in your ethnocultural organization. Talk to your countrymen and enjoy cultural activities that you miss. Help out your neighbours. Do simple, good deeds like shoveling snow in their yard. It will lift your mood (read Should you volunteer during the pandemic? 5 steps to help out safely for more tips.)
    • Join free activities – Improve your skills or enjoy free activities. Enroll in language classes, online chats, cooking classes, or skating lessons at the community center. Walk around your neighborhood and enjoy the beauty of winter.

    Building social connections, (note: The 211 helpline is in Ottawa. Please see the links below for Manitoba helplines).

  4. Make a “gratitude list” – Write down all your blessings this year. Think about each one in your list. This will help maintain a positive outlook.
  5. Make New Year’s resolutions – Having something to look forward to helps ease depression. Make a list of new goals for next year. Read Making your New Year’s resolutions work to help you start.
  6. Do something new – Play in the snow, build a snowman, or make new friends. Explore Manitoba and learn more about your new home.
  7. Recharge yourself – Go to a spa, spiritual retreat, or a meditation class. Take care of yourself. Rest and relax your mind. These activities will improve your focus. You will have more energy for work and other activities.
  8. Avoid alcohol and drugs – Relief from alcohol and drugs is temporary. They will only make you sick.

If you need help or someone to talk to:

Depression is different from sadness. Depression is an illness. It is more complicated than sadness. If you feel depressed:

  1. Go to the nearest Immigrant Serving Organization.
  2. Try Mental Health Virtual Therapy – This is available to Manitobans 16 years old and older who are coping with mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety. It now also includes two free counselling sessions from a trained professional from Morneau Shepell.
  3. Or call:
  4. Go to your doctor if you think you may be suffering from SAD.

Article updated November 19, 2020.

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Community Resources

Get the updated Mental Health resource guide on the Canadian Mental Health Association page.

Check community centre activities this winter. In Winnipeg, learn about skating lessons and public skate schedules on this page.

Aurora Family Therapy Centre has several free programs for newcomers.

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