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For some, holidays aren’t all merry and bright

For some, holidays aren’t all merry and bright

Parkland psychologist offers tips for dealing with ‘holiday blues’

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – the season of giving, gratitude and gifts. But not everyone feels the joy.

The holidays can also bring negative emotions to the surface. Many people find themselves experiencing stress, loneliness or grief during a time when it seems all around them are celebrating.

“The holidays come with a lot of traditions, expectations and memories. This can trigger difficult emotions in people who may have experienced a traumatic loss or even just a life change,” Marta Lynn Pardo, PhD, LSSP, lead psychologist at Parkland Health explains. “Meeting expectations of loved ones and being present for various gatherings is a lot of pressure and can lead to heightened stress during this time.”

Parkland psychologists emphasize the power of communication, self-care and boundaries during this season. “Speak openly about emotions and stress while creating a safe space for others to come to you,” suggests Pardo. “You might be surprised that others feel similarly and that you are not going through a difficult time alone.”

In addition to emotional distress, the ‘holiday blues’ can contribute to physical symptoms, including headaches, insomnia and intestinal problems, according to Dr. Pardo.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), nearly nine in 10 U.S. adults say that concerns about money, missing loved ones and anticipating family conflict cause them stress this time of year. The study reported that 43% feel that the stress of the holidays interferes with their ability to enjoy them and 36% said the holidays feel like a competition.

“The pressure to spend too much at this time of year is intense, so it’s important for us to talk to our children and family to set realistic expectations,” Pardo advises. “Focus on family experiences rather than things, start a new tradition or revive an old one from your childhood.”

Confronting these emotions can be uncomfortable, but there are things you can do to put yourself first and be the best version of yourself this holiday. Parkland psychologists want you to remember the following tips:

The power of saying no: It may feel like there a million things to get done before the year ends or that you have to be multiple places at once. Prioritizing your time and mental health sometimes looks like saying no or rescheduling plans.

How to ask for help: It can be hard to ask for support, especially when others are depending on you. Remember that by taking care of yourself you are also taking care of others. Being open can be scary, so Dr. Pardo recommends saying things such as:

• “There’s a lot going on and I am overwhelmed and need support. Is it ok if I talk to you about some of the things I have going on?” • “I am having a hard time and may not be as present as I normally am. If I seem off or distant, I may need someone to check in on me.” • “I am dealing with a lot of emotions and missing a loved one. I appreciate you being patient with me if I am more sensitive than normal.”

Practice positivity: Finding meaning and purpose in the season by doing volunteer work or helping others in need can spark kindness and joy, even in yourself. Participate in a cause that resonates with you or a passed-on loved one. This can also serve as a tradition and give your family something to look forward to for years to come.

Breathe: Especially when someone gets on your nerves. Take a walk if you need a break from family conflict. Set aside grievances and put your feelings first.

Seek professional help: Don’t be afraid of talking to a healthcare professional. Counseling and therapy are helpful tools year-round. Parkland offers behavioral health services at our community health centers. If you or a loved one is struggling, ask your primary care provider to refer you to our behavioral health team. If you or someone you know is in crisis, help is available 24/7. Call or text 988.

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