by Paula Hipp, RN  

The holiday season is upon us, which for many means festive celebrations filled with family and friends. For some, this builds excitement and anticipation for those good times; however, for others this time of year can be a reminder of lost loved ones, lack of access to family traditions, or other changes that may bring about stress and anxiety. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, many people can experience feelings of anxiety or depression during the holiday season, and people who already live with a mental health condition should take extra care to tend to their overall health and wellness. A recent survey showed that 64% of people with a diagnosed mental illness report that the holidays make their symptoms worse.  

Depression can occur at any time, but added anxiety and stress during the months of November and December can leave even those who are normally content feeling lonely, isolated or unfulfilled. There is an expectation we should feel merry and jolly during the holiday season, but for some, this is simply not the case. For those individuals, we are here to help.

Below is a list of suggestions that may help counteract the holiday blues:

•  Get enough sleep or rest

•  Spend time with supportive people

•  Don’t drink alcohol if you are feeling down

•  Take walks

•  Don’t isolate yourself

•  Forget perfection

•  It’s okay to say no

•  Stay within budget

•  Set reasonable expectations

•  Do something you enjoy

•  Enjoy all the wonderful food, but don’t binge

•  Invite someone who lives alone to dinner

•  Volunteer 

•  Celebrate a loved one’s life by sharing positive memories

•  Forgive yourself, we all make mistakes

For some, the holidays can bring on temporary depression, and for others it may be chronic. If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or a difficult life transition, contact St. Luke’s Hospital’s Senior Life Solutions program at 828-894-9890.

Paula Hipp, RN, is the program director at St. Luke’s Hospital’s Senior Life Solutions, an intensive outpatient group therapy program designed to meet the unique needs of older adults over the age of 65 struggling with depression and anxiety often related to aging. They focus on helping seniors in the community navigate difficult life transitions and regain their quality of life not only during the holiday season but also year-round.