Your Health Lara Richardson | 11 months ago

‘Tis the Season of Merriment? Maybe Not for Everyone.

During the winter holidays, we’re hit with all sorts of things to do – from holiday shopping and cooking, to attending parties and traveling to family gatherings. It’s meant to be enjoyable, and for most it is. But with all the hustle and bustle can come stress and even feelings of loneliness.

Some may be grieving the death of a loved one, dealing with a painful breakup or caring for a sick family member. Others may just find themselves overcommitted and stressed. There are a wide range of emotions that can surface during the holidays, from joy to burnout to unhappiness. If you’re feeling down, here are a few ways to cope:
  • Exercise. Make time to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. It’s a great way to keep up your mood. If it’s too cold outside, how about downward dogging to a yoga video on YouTube or even cranking up some tunes and dancing with gusto?
  • Be realistic with spending. The holidays can hit your budget hard. Plan your budget ahead of time and stick to it to avoid unnecessary stress.
  • Set a manageable schedule. Don’t overburden yourself or try to do too much in one day. Ask for help. Invite a friend over to help you decorate or wrap gifts. This is also a good way to ward off loneliness.
  • Take time to relax. Give yourself time each day to catch your breath and find a few moments of stillness. There is nothing like a hot bath on a cold day to calm you down. Even 15 minutes a day to yourself can help restore your balance and promote calmness.
  • Help those in need. There are many great places to volunteer and put a smile on someone’s face, which no doubt will bring one to yours. Looking for a place to volunteer? Volunteer Match or the United Way Volunteer Center can help you find something to match your interests.
  • Be mindful of alcohol. Alcohol may make you feel better in the moment but it’s a temporary lift. “People don’t realize that alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. It will temporarily lift your mood, but the more you drink, the more depressed you get,” says Mary Ward, Assistant Vice President, Addiction Medicine, Carolinas HealthCare System Behavioral Health.

When to Seek Help for Depression

If self-coping techniques fail to work, and you’re feeling down for an extended period of time, it might be time to seek professional help. Feeling hopeless to the point where there is no light at the end of the tunnel is an indication for depression and a risk factor for suicide. At that point, professional help is strongly recommended. With appropriate treatment, many people are able to overcome depression. “Symptoms like feeling sad most days, changes in sleep and changes appetite can be connected to depression. To see if you may have symptoms of depression you can complete a depression screening tool, such as the Patient Health Questionnaire,” says Rachel Schenker, LCSW, Director of Outpatient Clinics, Carolinas HealthCare System Behavioral Health. Manuel Castro, MD, Carolinas HealthCare System Behavioral Health, says that “70 percent of patients who stay in treatment and try psychotherapy and/or different medications will see marked improvement over a 3- to 12-month period.” If you feel that you are depressed, it is important to reach out to your support systems – friends, family and community – in addition to seeking professional services. Other resources are also available, such as the Behavioral Health Call Center at Carolinas HealthCare System. “We have resources 24/7. All people need to do is call,” says Ward. The call center is staffed by licensed therapists, counselors and nurses.   Call 800-418-2065 to reach the 24-hour Behavioral Health call center.