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By Youth First, December 24, 2018

Depression: it happens, especially this time of year with the hustle and bustle of the holidays. If you already battle some depression, it’s the most important time of year to learn to take care of yourself.

Depression doesn’t look the same for every person, and it happens for many different reasons. There can be genetic factors like family history or other risks like traumatic experiences, financial strain, relationship problems, or substance abuse. 

Depression is more than just having a bad day or going through ups and downs. We all have setbacks and struggles, but true depression is much more serious and needs to be dealt with before it causes major life struggles.

Most people don’t just snap out of a depression. It is an actual clinical disorder that requires treatment with the help of health professionals, therapeutic interventions and often medication management to get to a healthier place.

Depression can range from mild to moderate to severe, which sometimes includes thoughts of suicide. It’s important to put and keep the proper interventions in place even when symptoms are less intense. I always say it’s just like finishing out an antibiotic even though you’re starting to feel better.

If you think you might struggle with depression, share your concerns with a mental health professional, who will assess the symptoms and recommend a treatment plan.

Here are some other tips for managing depression from mentalhealthamerica.net:

Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others is also a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.

Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones.

Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion, and be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry.

Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.

Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed.

Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.

Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do.

Make the call. Anyone dealing with a suicidal crisis or emotional distress can also get help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

By Youth First – December 10, 2018

Sometimes the demands of this busy season can override the inherent joy, allowing stress to be an unwelcome guest at the table.

Here are some tips to help reduce stress and appreciate the upcoming holidays.

Put first things first. In the words of Dr. Redford  Williams,  director of Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Duke University, “ The holidays are supposed to be about kindness and  generosity and people most often neglect to extend these courtesies to those who need them the most – themselves.”

Remember the advice of airlines when “in the event of loss of cabin pressure,” adults are told to put on their oxygen masks first and then help their children. As parents, this may sound counterintuitive, but if you’re not breathing, you can’t help anyone else.

Healthy self-care allows us to handle those bumps in the road that are inevitable for us all.

Set a realistic budget. The cost of food and gifts seems to have grown faster than Jack’s proverbial beanstalk. Decide how much you can spend and stick to it.

Refrain from trying to buy the happiness of others, especially children. Those same children may try to convince you otherwise, but is that the message you want to instill?

Large families may opt for a gift exchange. Just decide what works best for your family. Overspending during the holidays could result in a post-holiday financial crisis, which is not a stress-free way to start the New Year.

Accept help. This is not a time to “out-Martha” Martha Stewart. Just think of the shopping, cleaning, baking, and entertaining this season. Remember, Martha has help and lots of it. All family members can help with shopping and cleaning, according to their age and abilities.

If Aunt Jane wants to contribute her famous horseradish-chocolate chip Jell-O mold, accept graciously. It may not be what you had planned, but it will make her feel appreciated and valued. Isn’t that what we would all like?

Just say no. Avoid over-committing your time when you know you are over-scheduled. Not speaking up can allow feelings of resentment, being overwhelmed, and being out of sorts.

If you’re thinking:  “They should know how busy I am!” Surprise! No one, outside of Cinderella’s fairy godmother, can discern our wishes or read our minds.

Similarly, no one can support and participate in every project, no matter how worthy. Schools, churches, and charities can all benefit from our time, talent, and treasure, but it’s up to us to choose what we can reasonably support.

Remain open to the joy of the season. Enjoy the first snowfall, the innocence of a kindergarten Christmas program, the gathering of family and friends around the dining table, or the sweet sounds of a church choir. All of these and more are available to us if we allow it.

In the words of those accidental philosophers, the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.” Peace and joy are gifts of the season, freely given.

By Alice Munson, MSW, Courier & Press, Nov. 28, 2017 –

It seems that before the new school supplies have been broken in and the Halloween costumes are put away for the next season, Thanksgiving and Christmas are upon us.  The demands of the holidays can sometimes override the inherent joy of the season, allowing stress to take over.

Here are some tips to help reduce stress and make the upcoming holidays more enjoyable:

  • Put first things first. says of Dr. Redford Williams, director of Behavioral Medicine Research Center at Duke University, “The holidays are supposed to be about kindness and generosity, and people most often neglect extending these courtesies to those who need them most – themselves.”
  • Remember the airlines’ admonition, “In the event of loss of cabin pressure, adults should put on their oxygen masks first, then put one on a child.”  As parents, this may sound counter-intuitive, but let’s face it, if you’re not breathing you can’t help anyone else.  Healthy self-care allows us to handle those bumps in the road that are inevitable for us all.
  • Set a realistic budget.  The cost of food and gifts seems to have grown faster than Jack’s proverbial beanstalk. Decide how much you can spend and stick to it.
  • Refrain from trying to buy the happiness of others, especially children.  Those same children may try to convince you otherwise, but is that the message you want to instill in them?
  • You may also want to consider a donation to the charity of your choice, your church, or a school.  Large families may opt for a gift exchange.  Just decide what works best for your family. Overspending during the holidays could result in a post-holiday financial crisis – not a stress-free way to start the New Year.
  • Accept help.  This is not a time to “out-Martha” Martha Stewart. Remember, Martha has lots of help!  The pursuit of perfection can put a damper on anyone’s holiday.  If Aunt Jane wants to contribute her famous horseradish-chocolate chip Jell-O mold to Thanksgiving dinner, accept graciously.  It may not be what you had planned, but it will make her feel appreciated and valued. Isn’t that what we would all like?  All family members can help with shopping and cleaning according to their age and abilities.
  • Just say no.  Avoid over-committing your time when you know you are over-scheduled.  Not speaking up can cause you to feel resentful, overwhelmed, and out of sorts.  You may think, “They should know how busy I am!”  No one can discern our wishes or read our minds.  And no one can participate in every project, no matter how worthy.  Just choose what you can reasonably accomplish.
  • Give yourself a time-out.  According to the Mayo Clinic, “Finding something that reduces stress by clearing your mind and slowing your breathing helps restore your inner calm.”  Fifteen minutes without the distractions of family, friends, and electronic devices may be enough to refresh and allow you to handle the next task at hand.
  • Remain open to the joy of the season.  The first snowfall, the innocence of a kindergarten Christmas pageant, the gathering of family and friends around the Thanksgiving table, or the sweet sounds of a church choir….all of these and more are available to enjoy if we allow it.  In the words of those accidental philosophers, the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you find you get what you need.”  Peace and joy are gifts of the season, freely given.