This holiday season, let's be creative about connecting safely with our loved ones, both vaccinated and unvaccinated.
A message from Dr. Nel Wieman, Deputy Chief Medical Officer
Connecting and celebrating with loved ones during the holidays is not only enjoyable, it's great for our mental health – and mental health, of course, is as important as physical health. That's why, even with the COVID-19 pandemic, I strongly encourage everyone – both vaccinated and not-yet-vaccinated – to find creative ways to connect and celebrate safely. (Zoom Christmas party? Outdoor events in spacious places with hot beverages, snow activities, drumming, carolling, and a campfire?)
As a psychiatrist, I know that for many, the Christmas season can be a difficult time as feelings of loneliness can impact mental health. This year, the pandemic adds an extra challenge to connecting: some people may be isolated from their families and others because of their choices around vaccines.
Tensions, including within families, can run high when some members are vaccinated, and others are hesitating or refusing to get vaccinated (usually as a result of all the misinformation out there). Some families have not been able to get together at all, as those who are vaccinated want to stay as safe as they can, especially those who are elderly or immunocompromised.
While some families and friends may need to stay physically apart, that doesn't mean they can't “distantly socialize" via Zoom, FaceTime, WhatsApp, emails, phone calls, cards, letters – there are so many options! Remember that even if the visits and hugs are virtual this year, they're still helpful and meaningful.
If there are people in your circles of support who are feeling lonely, you might consider including them in your holiday plans. We all need a little more support this time of year, and reaching out can be mutually beneficial. For example, I know of an elderly woman who is vaccinated and immunocompromised. She is sad that she hasn't been able to see her grandchildren for a long time as their families have chosen not to vaccinate. My colleague has invited her to share Christmas with her (vaccinated) family.
In addition to finding creative ways to connect safely this holiday season, another good thing to do for your mental health is to take breaks from the news and social media. Instead, do healthy and enjoyable things like playing with a pet, painting, drawing, dancing, beading, drumming, exercising, or getting outside in nature! And don't forget the importance of just relaxing: those of us with very busy lives can benefit from resting and being still and mindful.
I encourage you to continue learning about ways to maintain good mental health throughout the pandemic and keeping up on the latest pandemic developments by going to our website as a reliable resource for information. As a health and wellness partner to First Nations people in BC, we are doing our best to keep you informed about how to stay healthy, well, and safe during the pandemic!
If you find yourself becoming consistently anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed, please see a mental health professional for counselling. Virtual help can be arranged by calling our Virtual Doctor of the Day service. You're worth it! Have a happy, healthy, SAFE holiday season.