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Holiday Season II

Pine-Cones-On-BranchesThe holidays are difficult to manage when you are depressed, have extended family or friends who care for you and expect you to participate in the seasonal activities.  But what if you are among those who do not have a large network of family or friends to surround you?  Perhaps you live in a different part of the country from your family and cannot afford to travel, or your loved ones have passed away.  Perhaps your circle of close friends has dwindled due to your illness and you are left feeling quite alone.

What often makes this feeling worse is the media, with images of groups of seemingly happy people gathering together in celebration of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas or New Year’s Eve.   When you are depressed this visual image seems to be everywhere you go, with little or no escape.  It is often easy to forget that this is just an image and not reality, that there are many people who have just a few close connections similar to you.  It is easy to forget that, in reality, people have real stressors and imperfect lives, illnesses and financial woes and are not as “jolly” as the media image portrays.  How do you get through this time of year when you feel so apart from those in your town?

First, this is a time for a fact check.  Feelings are not facts.  Ask yourself who it is that you know, personally, and what is your relationship with them.  Here is where the quality of friendship wins over quantity.  Remind yourself that you are not alone in this situation, that there are many others who have a small, not large, network of family and close friends to support them.  Not everyone has the life depicted in a Norman Rockwell painting.  Then make an effort to connect with your network of friends, especially at this time of year.  Maybe it is for a quiet lunch together, or an evening with friends at home.

Beyond that, many people find it helpful to reach out to others in need at this time of year.  Many volunteer organizations are looking for assistance, and you may find that in giving you, too, receive something in return.  Perhaps your church, synagogue or local community center has an organization for this purpose that you can join.  Try it if you are able and you may be surprised.

Lastly, make sure to take care of yourself.  Stick to the basics of mental health even though you may not feel like doing so.  Keep up a regular routine and structure to your day, eat healthy, regular meals, and maintain a regular pattern of sleep and exercise.  Don’t forget your medications, and limit your caffeine and alcohol intake.  Remember that it is very important to keep up with your social contacts and not isolate yourself from them, so pick up the phone.

Stay well!

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