The holidays can be a time filled with joy, celebration, friends, and family. But it can also feel hectic and overwhelming, and many people experience the ‘winter blues’. Working in the film industry can be stressful all year round but winter and the holidays bring on some unique challenges, like low motivation, financial pressure, loneliness, and feeling forced to be happy and full of holiday joy.
In this post, we’ll explore why the holiday season can be an especially stressful time of year and ways to beat the winter blues.
If you’re looking for more detailed information and a range of tips and exercises, we’ve also created a workbook called Managing Holiday Stress: The Complete Guide.
Looking after your mental health during the holidays
When the days are darker and it’s cold outside, it can affect your internal balance and it takes a bit of time for your mind and body to adjust. Less sunlight reduces serotonin levels and increases melatonin in the brain, which affects your energy and mood. That means, if you’re feeling a little low or tired, that’s normal.
However, if the symptoms are severe, it might be a good idea to see a health professional to assess whether you might have ‘winter depression’, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and what treatment options are available. Here is some more information on SAD.
How to boost your mental health during the holidays:
Think of a few things that you like about the holidays and try to focus on those things. You don’t have to feel happy or excited, but focusing on the positives can help to alleviate some of the stress.
Try some mood-boosting exercises, like writing down what you’re grateful for, repeating affirmations, or practicing visualization. For more details on these, have a look through our workbook.
Put on your winter coat and go outside during daylight hours, and aim for at least 20 minutes a day.
Eat a healthy diet with plenty of nutrients and limit the amount of unhealthy foods and if you drink alcohol, try to lower how much you consume (I know that’s a big ask during the festive season!)
Create a routine. Get up at the same time every morning, do some exercise, go for a walk or do yoga and meditation. Plan healthy meals and drink plenty of water and tea. Having a routine helps the body adjust and find balance, and helps you to maintain healthy habits.
Even if you don’t feel like socializing much, stay in touch with friends and family. Connecting with loved ones releases serotonin in the brain and will give you a boost.
Dealing with financial pressure
Depending on what part of the industry you work in, there might be little work available or unpaid breaks in filming and production. This can be stressful, especially during the current cost-of-living crisis across the globe. The holiday season is often expensive with celebrations, buying gifts, decorations, and cards, and financial pressure is therefore the number one reason people feel stressed during the holidays. But with a little bit of planning and setting boundaries, you can reduce some of the stress.
Make a list of all the things you need to buy and who you want to buy gifts for. Set a realistic budget that reflects your current financial situation and stick to it. If you plan in advance, you’ll feel more in control of your spending and won’t be as tempted to buy unnecessary items. Starting early also reduces the chances of stress buying, which often leads to spending more than you normally would.
Gifts don’t have to be expensive – look out for deals and sales, consider options from second-hand shops or try making gifts yourself. Remember, it’s the thought that counts!
You could suggest doing Secret Santa (or equivalent) with friends and family to reduce the amount you have to spend on gifts. Instead of eating out, you could have a dinner party and share the cost, for example, you could ask each person to bring a dish or something to drink.
If you make a plan and think of creative ways to spend less this holiday season, it will help you to relax and enjoy yourself a little bit instead of feeling stressed and overwhelmed. In the workbook, we discuss more ways to reduce the cost of the holidays.
Getting less sunlight can affect your motivation levels. It’s also the end of the year and after months of working tirelessly, many people just want a break. But your to-do list might still be long and there might be pressure to finish off projects before the year ends. So how can you stay motivated?
Connect with nature. Go for a long walk and enjoy the colors changing, listen to the sounds around you, and feel the cold air against your skin. Take extra warm layers and a flask of hot tea and enjoy the winter scenery. Connecting with nature is great for your well-being and can give you a boost in productivity.
Plan things to look forward to. That might be going to the cinema or the forest, having dinner with friends, or inviting someone over for a movie night. Doing the same thing every day, even if you love your work, can grind you down after a while. Breaking that up with fun and interesting activities can help to keep you feeling motivated.
Exercise. Doing regular exercise will get your heart pumping and release feel-good hormones in your brain. This can help you to stay focused and creative.
Final thoughts on reducing holiday stress
Remember that if you’re feeling stressed, lonely, or unmotivated, you’re not alone – many people experience this during the holidays and winter more generally. Think about what’s important to you, how you would like to spend your time, and with whom. Try not to give in to the pressure that everything has to be ‘perfect’ or that you should feel happy and excited, even though that’s what Hollywood films and holiday songs often suggest!
If you’d like more information and advice, download our workbook here.
Helpful resources if you’re struggling with your mental health this holiday season:
Here is a list of organizations you can get in touch with:
The Canadian Mental Health Association tips for mental health during the holidays:
If you are thinking of suicide, please call 1-833-456-4566 toll free in Canada (1-866-277-3553 in Quebec) or dial 911.