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Monday, May 20, 2024

AGH House Call: Prioritizing Mental Health Throughout the Holidays and Winter Months    

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For many people, the holiday season means cozy family traditions, fun activities, and a time to slow down at work and speed up at home. But for others, it can be a time that enhances stress, anxiety, sadness and loneliness. These feelings may arise for many reasons: financial pressures, difficult or traumatic memories associated with the holidays, the demand of hosting and attending events, and what may seem like a never-ending to-do list.

Seasonal depression—symptoms of depression that follow a certain season—also increases during winter months. It’s more prevalent in women than men and it’s one of the most common disorders I treat this time of year. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with your mental health, please know you’re not alone. Here are some ways—outside of a clinical setting—to prioritize your mental health throughout the holidays:   

  • Plan ahead and set a routine
    • Setting realistic expectations and sticking to a schedule are powerful ways to cope with feelings. This can range from getting to bed at a certain time and dedicating time to exercise, to enjoying a day on the couch in your pajamas.
  • It’s OK to say “no”
    • If the thought of hosting guests at home or attending a work holiday party induces stress and anxiety, practice saying “no.” You and only you get to determine your boundaries and comfort levels.  
  • Focus on what is within your control
    • It’s common to feel overwhelmed by things that are out of our control. Focusing your energy on things in your control can help with perspective. Write a list of your worries on paper—sometimes just seeing them in writing can reduce anxiety. Work through the list to see which you can improve or eliminate.
  • Aim for 20 minutes of sunlight a day
    • Fresh air can work wonders for mental health. Even though the days are colder and shorter, try to take advantage of our state’s abundance of daily sunshine.

If you’re having more bad days than good days or you’re simply in need of guidance, I encourage you to make an appointment with a professional. Mental and behavioral health disorders aren’t uncommon and seeking help can make a positive difference in your life. I—along with my colleagues—am always available to listen and to partner with you on your goals.  

This holiday season, let’s remember that a kind community is a stronger and healthier community. We never know what someone else is experiencing. Caring gestures, warm smiles and words of affirmation take little effort and can make a huge impact in a person’s day.

Wishing you a safe and happy holiday season. And remember, my door is always open. By: Sarah Cordova, PMHNP-BC, FNP-BC, MSN

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