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How to cope with stress for holiday

by Merrie Leininger

While the holidays hold wonder and cheer for many, they can also mean stress and unrealistic expectations that can lead to depression.

Dr. William Jenkins of Douglas County Mental Health said many people can use help in getting through the holidays. He will be speaking on the subject Dec. 15, at Summerville at Virginia Creek, 1565 Virginia Ranch Road, Gardnerville.

Jenkins said many people expect the holidays to be the same as they were when they were children, and the reality can be crushing.

“People tend to believe the holidays will solve things for them, then after the holidays, they have a let-down,” he said. “A lot of people collapse after the holidays and then they are much more aware of their mood.”

For people who feel responsible for creating the perfect holiday for their families, the stress may be too much, he said.

“People overwhelm themselves trying to create a special event. They get stressed out with all the pressure of having to create something under pressure of (not enough) money,” Jenkins said.

For senior citizens, the holidays can mean a different set of disappointments. Many seniors can’t live with their families because of health problems and feel isolated at this time of year. Seniors also are less likely to seek help for their depression, Jenkins said.

He said the weather can dampen spirits.

“Seasonal affective disorder is very much related to not getting enough exposure to the full spectrum of light. There are not enough day time hours, and people are less likely to be outside during the day because it’s too cold,” he said.

– Symptoms. Jenkins said caregivers, friends and family can be on the lookout for those who seem to be affected by the stresses of the season.

If you see a change in eating or sleeping patterns, withdrawn behavior, a friend or loved one unwilling to do certain things, expressing sadness or irritability and having trouble getting or keeping organized, ask if the person is having problems. Jenkins also recommended calling a professional for advice.

“We always welcome a call. You can call and have a consultation over the phone if you want to check out warning signs and discuss what you are seeing. It is better to look at it and determine if there is anything happening, rather than just glossing over it,” Jenkins said. “We are here to serve the community, but we can’t take the first step. They need to take the first step and reach out.”

It’s most important that those who are feeling depressed talk to someone because almost all kinds of depression can be treated, he said.

In addition, holiday blues can be a sign of other medical problems.

“Share what’s going on and identify if it is something more than the holiday blues. If so, it can be effectively treated with the help of a friend or a professional,” Jenkins said.

He said many times, the holiday blues mean an underlying, larger depression that can linger.

Jenkins urged anyone who fears any indication of suicidal thoughts to intervene immediately.

“We take any indication of suicide very seriously and we don’t gloss over that it’s ‘just the holidays,'” he said.

– Happy holidays. Anyone can have a happy holiday season, Jenkins said. People just need to be prepared and think about how best to handle the holidays at any given point in their life.

“You have to expect that things are going to change,” he said. “You can enjoy the holidays no matter your situation if you have the proper expectations.”

Jenkins will give more information at the presentation held at 11 a.m. Dec. 15.

A free buffet lunch will also be served, but space is limited to 200 people. RSVP by Dec. 10 to Summerville at 782-3100.