Calgary mental health experts offer tips for dealing with holiday, pandemic burnout

Financial strain, overwhelming demands and another year of living with COVID-19 are affecting people heading into the holiday season, a Calgary psychologist says, with some experiencing a particular kind of burnout. 

Krista Beck, a psychologist at Calgary Counselling Centre, says recently some people are experiencing “holiday burnout.” 

“This is what happens when people are overwhelmed by the extra demands and the expectations that are associated with the preparation and celebration of the holiday season,” she said.  

COVID-19 can add additional pressure. 

Beck says when families have divided opinions on mask bylaws and vaccines it can add stress to family gatherings. One way to handle this, she says, is to lay out boundaries early on.

“Letting people know very clearly what the expectation is and what they’re OK with,” Beck said.  

“Maybe doing things over Zoom or over the phone, or maybe meeting in a public place if they feel comfortable wearing masks and having a briefer visit, but really sticking true to what they feel is important and making sure those boundaries are laid out well ahead of time.” 

Beck says other ways to help protect mental health during the holidays include implementing a routine, not taking on too much, sticking to a budget and coping in healthy ways, like doing yoga or journalling. 

Bryce Barker, a knowledge broker at Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, says throughout the pandemic, mental health and substance use concerns have remained high, and closer to the holidays some people use drugs and alcohol to cope. 

“The best thing to do is to take care of yourself and the people around you that if you know someone who may be vulnerable, then reaching out to them … finding safe ways to get together with people in whatever ways that makes sense.” 

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