Monday, December 10, 2018

By Britane Outlaw, MS, LPC, CLCP, CCM, Marketing & Screening Liaison, Senior Counseling Center

The holidays are a time of great joy for most, but for many the holidays can be a stressful time that brings about negative emotions. Here are some tips to cope with mental distress brought on by the holidays.

  1. Recognize your feelings-

Often individuals are resistant to acknowledge that they have negative feelings around the holidays. The fact of the matter is that many people struggle during this time of year. Even the happy memories can trigger unpleasant feelings if a loved one has been lost. Take note of any extra stress, anxiety, or depressive symptoms brought about by the time of year. Acknowledging your feelings is the first step in healthy coping with the holidays.

  1. Reach out for support-

Once you’ve acknowledged your feelings, then it’s time to reach out for support. When you’re feeling isolated, reach out to family, friends, and loved ones to gain a sense of connection. Relationships within the community create a sense of belonging.  Examples of these opportunities would be joining an exercise class, getting involved with a community activity or club, becoming active in a civic or faith organization. One of the greatest ways to stave off negative feelings is by maintaining a sense of connection.

  1. Have realistic expectations-

Unrealistic expectations are a reliable predictor of negative emotions. Evaluate your expectations of yourself, others, and events. Expecting the holiday season to be perfect or encompass every family tradition could ultimately leave you disappointed.  Families grow and change each year, bringing opportunities to celebrate in different ways. Remember, it’s perfectly acceptable to say “no” to events, expenses, or uncomfortable engagements.  Healthy expectations will help you maintain healthy boundaries and prevent depressive symptoms.

  1. Practice forgiveness-

Forgiveness is often a theme we find in holiday movies this time of year. Forgiveness for self and others will improve your holiday experience. Be understanding of others who become distressed this time of year, as they are likely feeling the holiday stress as well. The holidays have a unique way of creating opportunities for self-reflection. When these thoughts arise, remember to practice self-forgiveness. Let go of the “what ifs” and move on to the “what now?” Practicing forgiveness keeps small things from turning into big things.

  1. Know when to ask for help-

The holidays often create feelings of uncertainty, anxiousness, loneliness, sadness, and despair. If you or a loved one is battling mental health distress, recognize when it’s time to ask for help. If these symptoms are occurring 3-4 days per week reach out to your primary care physician or a mental health professional. For loved ones with Medicare, reach out to the Senior Counseling Center at 405-912-3495 or visit online at For loved ones in crisis, go to the nearest emergency room or call the Behavioral Medicine Services unit at 405-307-5555.