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Mental health, COVID-19 and the holidays

Mental health, COVID-19 and the holidays

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Mental health, COVID-19 and the holidays

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected lives in many ways this year and might mean connecting with family and friends in different ways this holiday season.

The “happiest time of the year,” “a season of joy” and “holiday season” are all terms that can be synonymous with “holiday blues,” “seasonal depression” and “winter blues.”

Unfortunately, this year, we also have to deal with how COVID-19 will change the dynamics of traditional family holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Seasonal depression or the holiday blues is common. Symptoms can be experienced by anyone, and approximately 14 percent of Americans experience a change in mood during this time of year. As 2020 has been a challenging year for us all, some people might think enjoying the holidays is an impossible task.

Factors that can derail the holidays include:

• Finances.

• Stress.

• Grief.

• Anxiety.

• Poor self-care.

• Feeling overwhelmed.

• Family tension.

Seasonal factors also trigger holiday blues, including less sunlight, weather changes, dietary changes, changes in daily routine or overindulging in alcohol during holiday parties.

All of these factors can leave us feeling lonely, sad, fatigued or with a sense of loss. The effects of COVID-19 only intensifies these factors during the already stressful holiday season as we worry about our health and the health of those around us.

It is important that we implement methods to help make the holidays festive. There are ways to create an enjoyable mood despite the challenges of this year, and there are things that we need to do for ourselves to help maintain a level of happiness.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and The Mayo Clinic suggest the following tips to avoid the holiday blues and stay healthy this season:

• Seek support if you are mourning a loved one and acknowledge your feelings.

• Get enough sleep.

• Take time to care for yourself.

• Do not isolate yourself; use video conferencing apps to connect with loved ones.

• Spend time with supportive and caring people.

• Eat and drink in moderation; do not over indulge in either.

• Set a budget to avoid overextending yourself financially.

• Find ways to relax.

• Make a to-do-list and keep it simple.

• Set reasonable expectations for tasks and activities.

• Exercise regularly; keep yourself active as much as possible.

• Follow safety measures for gatherings. Practice social distancing, wear a mask, encourage proper hygiene, limit time and size of gatherings, use proper ventilation.

• Sanitize! Sanitize! Sanitize!

These tips can help you keep things from becoming overwhelming and can help create a holiday season that is memorable, full of support and less stressful.

If you continue to experience symptoms lingering after the holidays, seek assistance. Reach out to supportive individuals in your life and/or mental health professionals who can help you cope more effectively.

For further information regarding coping with depression, stress and COVID-19 during the holidays, visit NAMI’s website at nami.org and The Mayo Clinic at mayoclinic.org.

Christopher Moore, MA, LAC, LPC, is a behavioral health consultant in the HopeHealth Medical Plaza in Florence. He is a licensed professional counselor in South Carolina and has worked in counseling and mental health since 2002.

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