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Categories: Behavioral Health, holiday

Keep it simple this holiday season

Dalina Rainey – Behavioral Health Consultant

As we approach Thanksgiving, Sirius XM already has three radio stations devoted to around-the-clock holiday tunes, and Mariah Carey declared on social media that it was officially the holiday season as of 12 a.m. on Nov. 1.

The holidays come around quickly, and some people are so excited that the season gets pushed up by a few days each year. According to a 2017 Pew Research Center Survey, 90 percent of Americans say they celebrate Christmas. With such a large percentage of Americans honoring the holiday in some fashion, it is easy to assume that everyone is excited and looking forward to the season with the same giddy expectation as Carey.

I must admit that I already have my radio tuned to the holiday mix station for my morning car ride into work. I look forward to hearing these songs yearly, as they remind me of family, hot chocolate, turkey, cold weather and presents. All of these are traditions I enjoy and cherish.

For many people, the holidays are deeply rooted in traditions passed down from generation to generation, and individuals look forward to the deep feelings of joy, nostalgia and belonging they create.

However, the difficult reality is that this time of year is not all good feelings and happy memories for everyone. There is evidence that shows that many people experience increased feelings of stress, depression, anxiety and fatigue during the holidays. According to an American Psychological Association survey, 38 percent of Americans admit to feeling stressed during the season.

While the reasons for these feelings vary depending on the person, it is important to identify these feelings early on and take steps to minimize or eliminate them all together.

Managing competing social demands and shopping or just trying to organize the family dinner can all contribute to an increase in symptoms associated with mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. It is important to plan to take care of yourself and your health during the holidays.

So, in the spirit of giving, I offer three tips to have a stress-free holiday season!

1. Be honest and realistic. It’s OK to say NO during the holiday season. It is impossible to be everywhere and do everything at one time. Plan ahead and prioritize the most important things to do during the season and stick with it. It’s OK to skip the office shindig in honor of a quiet evening roasting marshmallows and making hot chocolate. Do it!

2. Do something to help someone. Volunteering during the holidays is a wonderful way to connect with other human or furry beings. Volunteering can provide a variety of benefits to a person’s physical and mental health, self-confidence, sense of purpose and career goals.

3. Keep it Simple. I have a very dear friend who has eight children. One thing I admire about them is they always keep it simple. Instead of having 10 different pies, three different varieties of cookies and several types of rolls, they limit the feast to two pies, two varieties of cookies and one yeast roll. Voila! My, what a liberating experience.

Now, I realize that the tips I mentioned above are sometimes easier said than done, but I encourage you to give them a try, be gentle with yourself in the process and rock out to some holiday carols!

One last bonus tip: If you find yourself feeling particularly sad during the holidays, feel empowered to ask for help and let someone know what you need. There are a number of therapists, 24-hour toll free lifelines and emergency room professionals all in place to provide support, encouragement and help. No one needs suffer alone or in silence.

Resources
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255 (TALK).

The Lifeline also offers hearing impaired services: 800-799-4889.

The Samaritans: 877-870-4673 (HOPE).

Trevor Project Lifeline (hotline for LGBT youth): 866-488-7386.

Child Help USA National Hotline (for youth who are suffering child abuse): 800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453).

Boys Town National Hotline (serving all at-risk teens and children): 800-448-3000.

National Teen Dating Violence Hotline (concerns about dating relationships): 866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 22522.


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