SIDNEY -- It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. But this year, it’s going to be very different.

Take a 10-month pandemic, add in the pressures of Christmas, and you’ve got a recipe for stress on your mental health.

Dr. Brianna Turner is an assistant professor in Psychology at the University of Victoria.

"It is OK to not feel OK," Dr. Turner told CTV News Wednesday. "Many people experience mental health struggles."

Family gatherings have been cancelled and people have lost their jobs during the pandemic.

"Typically, we see about 20 per cent of Canadians who report that they are experiencing high levels of depression or anxiety, even not in the pandemic," said the university professor. "It’s higher now during COVID."

A recent study by Stats Canada has identified food insecurity as a leading factor affecting our mental health this year.

"It’s pretty scary if you’ve got kids to feed," said Bev Elder, executive director of the Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank. "I think it really bothers people mentally."

Last year, the Saanich Peninsula Lions Food Bank had 280 requests for Christmas hampers. This year, it’s had 345 requests.

"We have a lot of families, we have a lot of seniors coming in asking for help," said Elder. "People are just worried about where their next meal is going to come from."

Turner notes that the unpredictable nature of 2020 has left a strain on people’s mental health.

"One of the things that’s been so hard is that it feels like there has been challenge after challenge after challenge," said Turner. "We haven’t had time to catch our breath."

So, what do you do, if you’re not feeling OK?

"It’s important to give yourself a chance to feel your feelings," said Turner.

"Giving yourself an opportunity to recognize and label some of those emotions, whether it’s anxiety or sadness or grief. I think just letting those experiences be there can be helpful," she said.

The University of Victoria assistant professor went on to say that once you’ve identified those feelings, then it’s possible to find the help you may need.

Turner also suggests that you look out for those around you. Reach out to others to make sure they’re doing OK as well.

"Offer each other support, find some common ground as we struggle because we know those connections can be hugely helpful to people as they navigate that experience," said Dr. Turner.

Help is always just a phone call away, 24-hours a day, through the Vancouver Island Crisis Society at 1‑888‑494‑3888 or through their website here.