As this fall semester comes to a close and most students gear up to go home for the holidays, many students begin to feel a disconnect from their families. This can lead to a fall in mental health, resulting in more stress and loneliness. Particularly for me, as I’m waiting in Brantford to write exams (that are sometimes days or even a week apart), I begin to get a little homesick -especially if I have to miss a family event or tradition for an exam or because I don’t have a way to and from home.
When asked about how she spends Christmas with her family and if it’s changed since coming to university, Katie McPhee wrote, “My birthday is actually on Christmas Day so our Christmas is a little different from everyone else’s! We do Christmas in the morning and then the evening is dedicated to a movie and Chinese takeout for my birthday! These traditions have stayed the same since I went to school, the only thing that’s changed is how much more I value this time with my family.”
This brings up the concept of adulting. There are many moments one comes across in university that remind us again that adulting is different, hard and often no fun. According to recent data from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, people between the ages of 15-24 are more likely to experience mental illness and most will not receive treatment. Stress like being away from home, having exams or important final projects and missing family traditions can negatively impact one’s mental health; particularity if someone has a preexisting mental illness.
When asked if her Christmas experience has changed since coming to university, Sarah Danielson, a third-year student, wrote,
“I think last year they decorated the tree without me.” She added, “usually my roommates and I will find something to do related to a holiday when one comes around but it varies as to what it is… [this year] me and my roommates got matching pajamas and then we’ll marathon Hallmark Christmas movies”.
Creating new traditions and memories with roommates or friends is a common occurrence as we age and meet new people. This is a great way to combat homesickness and the stress of finals. Jennifer Moore, a third-year digital media and journalism student, wrote, “The only tradition I’ve adopted since coming to Laurier is participating in Secret Santa with my friend group —I used to do this with my friends in high school so it’s nice to continue this even if it’s with new people!”
When asked if she feels the same way about other holidays, McPhee wrote, “Christmas is probably one of the biggest holidays in our family so I’m not as sad to miss Halloween, and I’m lucky enough to be able to go home for Easter and Thanksgiving every year!”
If you are, or one of your friends is struggling with a mental health problem – related to the holidays or not – it is important to seek help. The Wellness Centre is a great start and they will connect you to the resources you need to get help.