Each year as the holiday season approaches we are reminded of the holiday events of years past – good or bad. We may also be dealing with the adjustments in our lives from the preceding year such as job changes; the birth, illness or death of loved ones; moving away from family or friends; the stress of having a family member in military service overseas or a myriad of other possibilities that lead to stress, anxiety, and depression.
For some people these changes have a more intense impact during the holiday season. This may manifest itself in self-examination, consideration of the unknown future for the coming year or even in bouts of depression.
If you are experiencing a high level of anxiety or emotional stress, consider making small changes in order to make the season more manageable – emotionally and physically. To avoid being “bummed out” and to have a more enjoyable time during the holidays this year consider:
- Traditions – Some families have traditions which have been in place for years. Others may be very new. Either way, these traditions may be changed or put on hold if they are difficult to maintain this year. There is no rule book that requires a family to do the same thing each year so feel free to change if that will work best for you and your family. On the other hand, if traditions are soothing and comforting, by all means continue them. Yet remain sensitive to their impact upon you and your family and be open to changes needed by each of you. Be open to trying something new.
- Expectations – Keep your expectations realistic. Make a list of things to be done. Are there tasks which are unnecessary or that you could have others help to complete? Then complete the remaining tasks as time and finances allow.
- Time for Yourself – Spending time with others who are special and supportive is very important during the holidays. Yet is also vital that you spend time taking care of yourself. Care for yourself by eating well, exercising, getting adequate sleep and taking time to do something nice just for you. And most importantly breathe and take the time to relax.
· The Good News – The stress and intensity of holidays is generally short-term and subsides as daily routines are resumed. And remember to seek the listening ear of a family member, friend, physician, clergy, or professional counselor when additional support is needed.
In the event that you or a loved one is overwhelmed to the point of depression due to the fact that a loved one is not present due to death, extreme illness or military service, here are some coping tips.
ü Acknowledge their absence and the feelings you have. Grief is possible in the case of death or absence. It is important to recognize grief as a normal and natural process. Avoiding the fact that someone or something is missing will not eliminate the feelings.
ü Find a way to include the memory. Plan some activity that will honor the absent person. This could be as simple as a moment of silence or displaying a picture.
ü Choose good holiday companionship. It is important to plan ahead and avoid isolation during the holidays. Choose people with whom you feel safe and comfortable to spend time with during the holidays.
ü Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol and drugs are used as a way of trying to avoid. However, they only increase the negative feelings.
If you or someone you know is coping with feelings of grief, helplessness, hopelessness, or isolation, help is available from anywhere in the state by calling your local community mental health center (visit http://mhmr.ky.gov/files/CMHC_Crisis.pdf) or dialing 911. For further information on mental health, visit http://mhmr.ky.gov/MH/.