Timeless October/November 2021 - Page 19

YOUR HEALTH

Stress , depression and the holidays … Tips for coping

Jay Shehi • Contributing Columnist

It ’ s time to dust off the Red Rider in the closet and ring the bells because the holiday season is officially upon us . While this time of year is a source of great comfort and excitement for many , the feeling that we have from reading the previous sentence is dependent upon many factors . Have we recently lost someone we love ? Is there unresolved family conflict ? Just like everything in life , our experience is unique and it is important to know that it is normal to feel differently during what many of us think of as the most joyous time of year .

Studies have shown that the Holiday Blues are a real thing and many people experience anxiety and depression during the holiday season . Some seasonal factors at play that can affect mood are changes in diet , routine and fewer hours of sunlight . There is increased financial stress associated with buying gifts and attending or hosting holiday parties . These factors are often compounded by unrealistic expectations that we place on ourselves to buy the perfect gift or attend every holiday event possible . There are numerous reasons why some may feel overwhelmed right now but here are four tips for good mental health as the season begins :
Set realistic expectations With everything in life , it is important to set reasonable expectations for ourselves . Traveling 500 miles in four days to attend twelve family gatherings to eat twelve different versions of Thanksgiving is enough to stress anyone out ( and likely cause physical discomfort and the need for sweatpants ). Setting limits for yourself and enforcing appropriate boundaries with your family and friends is a healthy way of protecting your mental health . Utilizing technology can enhance our ability to be in two places at once and allow us to stay connected to those that live far away . And while we often lose sight of this , those same family members will likely be around to visit in January .
Stick to a budget
Overspending is notoriously common this time of year and with financial stress playing a huge role in increased anxiety , it is important to set a budget . There are also numerous ways to be creative gift givers . For friends and coworkers , baked good are always appreciated and are usually enjoyed more than an item that was purchased . In the age of consumerism , it is sometimes easy to forget that the thought behind the gift is more significant than the monetary value . Thinking back on our childhoods , the gifts that we remember were usually of much greater sentimental value . The handwritten card from your grandmother or the family heirloom that you were gifted are much more valuable than the stereo you ’ ve thrown away .
Practice healthy lifestyle habits
While our routines usually change this time of year , getting plenty of sleep and exercise is always beneficial . Given that stress and anxiety can be made worse by fewer hours of sleep , allowing yourself adequate time to rest is key . Studies have also shown that exercise helps us fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer . Exercise will also help avoid some of the risks of overeating that are associated with the holidays .
Recognize that grief during the holidays is normal
This time of year is a time of reflection and for those that have lost a loved one , no matter how long ago , the holidays can feel very different . Grief is especially real when experiencing things without loved ones for the first time . Acknowledging loss is a validating experience and because the loss is likely shared with others , leaning on social supports is vital . It is important to allow yourself to celebrate old traditions
Shehi while not feeling guilty creating new ones . I have a friend whose family celebrates his father ’ s memory by a family donation to a local charity . By doing this , they ’ re keeping his father ’ s memory alive but acknowledging their loss in a shared and positive way . Always know that if you are struggling with grief , speaking with a professional is not a sign of weakness and there are many options available for you throughout our community .
This season , along with every season , is a time to enjoy life and share experiences with those we love . We should never take our family and friends for granted and if you are lucky enough to have people in your life , please don ’ t forget those that do not have someone to share the holiday season with . Your time is a valuable resource . Simply being there for someone else can go such a long way and will enrich your holiday season in the process . Call your high school friend who is going through a difficult time . Invite your elderly neighbor to your family Thanksgiving . The gift of friendship is the greatest gift we have to give .
• Jay Shehi is CEO of Alliance Health Center . You can contact him at www . alliancehealthcenter . com www . meridianstar . com
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