- By DIANNE HARDISTY For The Californian
How can a season known for its “good cheer” also be one filled with #stress, #anxiety and sometimes even despair?
The reasons are many and range from people having unreasonable expectations to chronic #mentalhealthproblems. Layered on top of the normal winter and holiday blues that some people experience are the impacts of a seemingly never-ending two-year #COVID-19 #pandemic.
“It’s completely normal to feel stressed and anxious during the holiday season,” Kern #BehavioralHealth and Recovery Services noted in a news release last year that launched a county hotline to help people during the holiday season. The KernBHRS Crisis Hotline is open 24/7. Call 800-991-5272 ?to reach a reassuring voice.
The hotline acts as a warmline for #mentalhealth/substance use concerns and provides a safe outlet for callers to voice or vent any frustrations with a trained hotline counselor without any judgment. All calls are free and confidential. Callers can also be linked to appropriate #mentalhealth and/or substance use disorder services as well as needed community resources.
While last year’s holiday season will be remembered by widespread lockdowns that separated families and isolated people, #COVID-19 continues to loom heavily over this year’s celebrations.
Vaccines have opened local economies this year and given people the ability to travel. But the emergence of highly contagious variants of the #virus and the unwillingness of millions of #Americans to get vaccinated have left some people rightly cautious, anxious and depressed.
According to the #AmericanPsychologicalAssociation, 44 percent of #women and 33 percent of #men surveyed are feeling #stress during the holidays. Common triggers for these feelings include family gatherings that devolve into arguments, overspending that adds to #financial problems, and pressure to create festive homes and gatherings.
A study by the #NationalAllianceonMentalIllness showed that 64 percent of people with #mentalillness report holidays make their conditions worse. For individuals with #mentalhealthchallenges, #NAMI notes that the holiday season can be a lonely or stressful time, filled with #anxiety and #depression. The #COVID-19 #pandemic has made maintaining #mentalhealth even more challenging for many.
Mitchall Patel, a KernBHRS spokesman, explained in a news release that #COVID-19 has added uncertainty and strife during an already stressful time of the year. These feelings can lead some to thoughts of #suicide.
He noted that a person does not have to suffer from #mentalillness or addiction to have suicidal thoughts. Patel pointed to the national #BeThe1to campaign that is working to change the script on how people act and respond to #suicide.
With the goal of promoting healing and help, the national #suicideprevention campaign outlines five action steps people can take to help others:
• Ask. Asking the question “Are you thinking about #suicide?” communicates that you’re open to speaking about #suicide in a nonjudgmental and supportive way.
• Keep them safe. Put time and distance between a person who expresses thoughts of #suicide and their chosen method.
• Be supportive. Visit and speak with someone on the phone or by text.
• Connect resources. Suggest resources, such as the KernBHRS Crisis Hotline.
• Follow up. Help provide a feeling of connectedness. Scheduling a time to follow up with someone who is struggling can provide hope and the message that you care.
While some people experiencing holiday blues may need to seek professional help, #NAMI suggests some self-help steps that can be taken:
• Stay safe. Keep yourself healthy and safe from #COVID-19. Follow public health guidance that includes vaccination, wearing face masks and #socialdistancing.
• Be kind to yourself. Recognize your “triggers” and prepare for stressful situations. Take steps to avoid or cope with #stress.
• Manage your time. Don’t try to do too much.
• Be realistic. Holiday commercials are fiction. Celebrations are not perfect or always happy.
• Set boundaries. Know and define your role.
• Practice relaxation and exercise regularly. Prioritize self-care.
• Eat and sleep well. This includes keeping hydrated.
• Avoid #alcohol and #drugs.
• Spend time in nature. Even a quick walk in the park can provide relief.
• Volunteer. Helping other people is a source of comfort and relieves feelings of #loneliness and #isolation.