The Holiday Season, Reinvented

As I write this, the holiday season is almost upon us and I’m just returning from a lunchtime trip to the local shops. It’s not necessary to be terribly observant to see that customers and store clerks are beginning to lose their patience, drivers are behaving more aggressively (especially in parking lots!), and a general feeling of anxiety is descending upon the populace.

Sometimes I think the expression “holiday season” is a misnomer. For many of us it’s a time when we’re pulled in multiple directions simultaneously. Social obligations, family obligations and end-of-year deadlines coupled with long days, late nights, lack of exercise and over-indulgence can all wreak havoc on our bodies and minds. And when (if) it becomes possible to get away from the office for a few days, we feel obligated to check in with our smartphones, tablets and laptops (a.k.a. “e-leashes”) every few minutes. Then there are the bills…

Does that sound familiar? Does it sound like a holiday? To me, it sounds more like a recipe for stress-induced disaster. And far too often, for too many in the legal professions, that’s exactly what happens.

As the Law Society of Upper Canada’s liaison with Ontario’s Member Assistance Program (MAP) and a member of the board of the CBA Wellness Forum, it concerns me deeply that all too often our members are reluctant to seek help when these types of pressures start piling up. Perhaps it’s the insidious nature of stress. Perhaps it’s a fear that someone will find out we’re not perfect. Perhaps it’s a feeling that there are no options, other than to try to “tough it out” alone.

I am so proud of the work that The Canadian Bar Association has done. They have partnered with the Mood Disorders Society of Canada to create an online educational course, entitled Mental Health and Wellness in the Legal Profession. It is brilliant!

The curriculum provides factual information about mental health and addiction issues, including their causes and symptoms. It also offers support and resources for prevention, treatment and maintaining wellness. To learn more about this program, please visit

If you’re having trouble coping with these added seasonal pressures, or see a colleague folding under the pressure of life, please know this: we have options. In Ontario, for example, a Member Assistance Program (MAP) is available to lawyers, paralegals, law students, judges, and their families. Ontario’s MAP can be accessed online at. Elsewhere in Canada, use this link to find resources in your region:

Ontario’s MAP is a confidential, single sign-on service that offers access to a number of innovative online services. Members can find information, tools and resources on a number of topics including but not limited to psychological challenges, marital/relationship challenges, separation/divorce, stress, depression and anxiety. Members also have access to a comprehensive Health Risk Assessment, can take a number of self-directed e-Courses and download a wealth of wellness-related MP3s from the Health-e Multimedia Centre. To learn more about this program, please visit

I encourage you to look for the Health Risk Assessment and take the brief quiz. Be honest: look at the areas where you don’t score well, and do a bit of soul-searching. And if you decide that you don’t like where you are right now, get in touch with your MAP directly. If you are not in Ontario, use this link to find resources in your region:

Your confidentiality is guaranteed through an individual’s right to privacy protection and enforced within the limits of the law. No personal identifying information whatsoever is disclosed.

Please, don’t suffer alone. Take the first step in putting the word “holiday” back into the holiday season.

— Terry Knott

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