We all know that 2020 has been a difficult year for most of us. Most recently, across Canada, increased restrictions have been put into place because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This will inevitably change how we all celebrate the holiday season. And while it may look a little different, it doesn’t mean fun cannot be had!
For this holiday, we have compiled a list of youth family-friendly activities that can be achieved safely from the comfort of home, while also focusing on your mental health and wellness.
Write A Letter
Taking the time to write a letter is something that will continue to bring much joy to the person you’re sending it to. It’s an opportunity to express appreciation and let someone know that you’re thinking of them through these uncertain times. Writing letters has also been proven to boost mental health in the following ways.¹
- Concentrating and being task-oriented can ease racing thoughts and feelings.
- Sitting down to write creates opportunities and moments of self-reflection and gratitude.
- Writing a letter helps with engaging and processing anxiety-based emotions.
- Builds rationality and perspective.
- Allows individual creativity to set in.
So if you’re feeling isolated this holiday season, write to a friend you haven’t seen as much lately or a distant family member, a colleague that is going through a difficult time, or someone you’ve never met before that would appreciate the gesture. Here are a couple of organizations that accept letters from all around the world:
- Design and create a handmade card to brighten a Canadian senior citizens day – Holiday Happy Mail
- Leave a positive comment or a picture of a holiday card in the comment section below to support Canadian Troops – Canadian Armed Forces
- Say thank you to a specific Alberta Health Services worker or just a general thank you – Thanks for Caring (AHS)
- Write to this youth-run organization that focuses on destigmatizing youth mental health – Letters to Strangers
Colouring is an underrated activity that is beneficial for both youth and adults. Similar to writing a letter or journaling, colouring has the ability to slow down the brain and focus on the task at hand. Taking on a more challenging colouring piece that requires commitment and time will create structure that may be lacking in some people’s everyday routines. This holiday, Crayola has provided free colouring pages available to print or, if you would like to contribute dollars to your local businesses, browse and purchase unique colouring and activity books from local online book stores such as Calgary’s Shelf Life Books or from Canadian sellers on Etsy.
Once you’ve finished colouring, share it on your social media feeds, send it to someone you wrote a letter to, or even post it in your window to spread holiday cheer to those getting outside.
We all deserve something a little sweet this season so we suggest gathering members of your household for a day in the kitchen. Brush off those old cook books or scroll through thousands of recipes online including Holiday Batch Cookies from the Great Canadian Baking Show or Cinnamon-Chocolate Fudge from Food Network Canada. Baking has the therapeutic ability to soothe stress with sensory pleasures. It’s also an anxiety-relieving activity to bake something in order to nourish a loved one.² The edible result is also a bonus.
If you want to skip the bake and get right to the decorating, check out some local options in your neighbourhood like Calgary’s Black Dog Bakery holiday kits or Pretty Sweet’s baked goods and pastries for easy eating. Both shops have door-to-door contactless delivery options.
Make Homemade Ornaments
Making an ornament is an easy do-it-yourself project that can be accomplished right at home. Whether it’s with paper, popsicle sticks, dough or pinecones from your backyard, you can make an ordinary object into a timeless memory. It’s also a thoughtful gift for a neighbour, friend, or family member.
As this has been a tough and unexpected year for all of us, you can think about making an ornament based around something good that has happened to you or a loved one this year. This could be adopting a new pet, learning something new, reconnecting with someone, being thankful for your health, appreciating your inner circle—no matter how big or small, it’s important to reflect on the moments that made this year just a little brighter.
Donate Old Items
It’s never been a better time to go through your personal belongings and decide if it needs a new home, however, new health policies have some organizations no longer taking old/used items. Before taking your items for a safe and distant drop off, do your research and call the organization to see if they are accepting used items, especially clothing. Currently, CMHA Calgary is looking for gently used or new coats (size large and extra-large) along with new sleeping bags for their Street Outreach and Stabilization clients. If you’re interested, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.
It’s said that decluttering your space is an effective and productive way to feel a sense of achievement while lowering stress levels. Especially in an extended time of isolation, keeping your space organized will maintain a better state of mind.
Missing the Alberta snow? Make your own at home with different household materials including paper, coffee filters, construction paper, newspapers and recycled boxes. Following a printable template or coming up with your own design, cut your snowflake and write positive messages on them and/or colour them to your liking and tape it onto the windows at your home. Have your neighbours and other family members participate and make your neighbourhood a Winter Wonderland!
Seek Out Some Festive Lights
Getting out the house this holiday season is a must so you might as well make the most of it. Suggest to your family to go for an early evening walk to go look at your neighbourhood’s festive lights and decor. Another night, you can hop in the car and check out some of the houses featured in the Lighten UP Calgary. The website features the best decorated houses in each Calgary quadrant (NW, NE, SW, SE). To make things even easier for families, Lighten Up has the light displays sorted by communities.
Participating in Lighten UP Calgary is free and does not require you to leave your vehicle however, they do ask, if you can, to donate on their website or drop off non-perishable items to the address listed on their website in support of Veterans Food Bank Calgary and the Calgary Food Bank.
As we settle into our homes for the next little while, remember that you are not alone and this is a temporary situation. Rely on the people in your household and make the most out of an unwanted situation. We will soon be reunited and by next year, back to celebrating regular traditions with the ones we love most.
¹ Meghan Holohan, “How letter writing can boost mood and make stress easier to handle,” para. 6, Today, last modified May 2020, https://www.today.com/health/mental-health-coronavirus-writing-letters-can-boost-your-mood-t180727
² James Elmer, “How I Found Therapy in a Bag of Flour,” para. 9-11, Healthline, last modified June 2018, https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/baking-therapy-for-mental-health
You are not alone. There is help.
For youth-related mental health resources, please visit http://www.breathingroom.me/, www.teenmentalhealth.org, www.mindyourmind.ca. If you cannot find someone you trust who is willing to support you, dial a crisis line right away at 403-266-HELP (4357) All crisis lines are confidential.*CMHA Calgary’s YouthSMART does not necessary support or endorse the listed community resources. We have reviewed each source, however external organizations may change content without notice.*
YouthSMART would like to thank Sagium and Kinsted Wealth for being our 2020 – 2021 website sponsor.