By Lorraine Jones
Cooking, family obligations, parties, entertaining, cleaning, money issues…the holiday season can be extremely overwhelming – and can lead to stress, as well as other types of mental and emotional difficulty.
How can you tell if a loved one is suffering?
Here are some of the top symptoms of the holiday blues:
- Excessive drinking
- Unrealistic expectations
- Financial stress
- Inability to be/communicate with family and friends
Next Steps: What To Do Next…
If a loved one, including yourself, are showing any of the above signs, there are certain steps you can take to make sure they start feeling better:
Step 1: Talk to your loved one. Communicate your concerns. Let them know what you’ve noticed and why you’re concerned. Explain that depression is a medical condition, not a personal flaw or weakness — and that it usually gets better with treatment.
Step 2: Suggest that the person see a professional. Ideal people to talk to include a medical doctor or a mental health provider, such as a licensed counselor or psychologist. Offer to help prepare a list of questions for the person to discuss in an initial appointment with a doctor or mental health provider.
Step 3: Express your willingness to help. This includes helping a loved one with setting up appointments, going with the person to appointments and attending family therapy sessions. If your loved one’s illness is severe or potentially life-threatening, contact a doctor, a hospital or emergency medical services.
Step 4: Recommend that they stay active. By simply engaging in any type of aerobic activity, such as brisk walking or running, for at least 30 minutes and up to 45 minutes can help improve mood.
Step 5: Make sure the monitor their intake of refined sugar and alcohol. Consuming large amounts of refined sugars, such as those found in cakes, pies, etc., can cause havoc on one’s blood sugar levels. Unstable glucose (blood sugar) can have a negative impact on mood, as well as cognition. Instead try to eat fruits or very limited amounts of refined sugar to get your sweet fix.
Similarly, using alcohol to “feel better” rarely works. In fact, it tends to make one’s mood go from bad to worse, especially if one is just drinking to be drinking. If the person must consume any alcoholic beverages, try to make sure they’re limited to only one or two drinks.
Step 6: Know what to do if the problem gets worse. Worsening depression needs to be treated as soon as possible. Your loved one should work with his or her doctor or mental health professional to come up with a plan for what to do when signs and symptoms reach a certain point. As part of this plan, your loved one may need to: you have been experiencing depressive symptoms for at least two weeks that is a significant impairment in your quality of life or functioning, please seek treatment from a qualified mental health professional.
You can find help locating a provider through the Association of Black Psychologists website (www.abpsi.org) or the American Psychological Association website (www.apa.org), as well as talking to a trusted health care provider. As always, if you, a loved one, or a friend is having thoughts of suicide or of hopelessness, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255) where trained professionals are available 24/7/365 to provide needed support and assistance.