Wellness Coach Talks Taking Care of Your Mental Health During the Holiday Season | Local news
During the holiday season, many people feel an increased sense of stress for a variety of reasons.
For those without family, it can be especially daunting and lonely; for others it could be the pressure of gifts and financial stress, and there are those who are affected by seasonal depression. The list of reasons why this can be a difficult time of year for many is long.
Erin Kerry, a health and wellness coach at Living Well Tyler, knows all too well the struggles the holiday season can bring.
A former high school teacher, Kerry started out wanting to help children, but after 11 years of teaching, she realized there was a large population of adults who were suffering, mostly in silence.
“In my later years of teaching, I realized how many adults are drowning in their own chronic symptoms and diagnoses, struggling to get better, and at the same time feeling ignored,” he said. “As a survivor of mental illness, I know how isolated it can feel, like you’re the only one experiencing it.”
Kerry said that for many reasons, the holiday season can amplify negative feelings.
“There are so many factors. For some, it could be due to the pain and trauma this season brings. There is so much nostalgia wrapped up in the holiday season. It’s easy to get caught up in memories, good and bad. For those bereaved loved ones, this is an exceptionally difficult time,” he said. “Another factor is the stress and pressure of the season. We have a lot of pressure to surpass ourselves every year, with our parties, events and family outings”.
“Even good stress is stress,” Kerry said.
Kerry also cited seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which affects millions each year.
“Seasonal depression is a very real physiological disorder that also affects this time of year. Whether it’s the time change and shorter days or gloomier weather with less sun exposure, studies show that SAD affects nearly 10 million Americans each year,” he said. “It is classified for fatigue, apathy, sleeping too much, depressed mood, overeating, and social withdrawal. It can be very unsettling and confusing to experience this during what is considered the ‘most wonderful time of the year’, often bringing unnecessary additional guilt, which can make seasonal lows seem even lower and darker.”
However, Kerry says there are several things people can do to help combat holiday stress and depression.
whatnow your limits
“It’s tempting to want to spend the season on fire, doing all the things, participating in all the activities, but that can lead to a lot of unnecessary stress and burnout,” he said. “It’s okay to say no if you want to say no. It’s okay to keep things simple and set some healthy boundaries.”
Honor your circadian rhythm
“Having natural light in your eyes within 30 minutes of waking up can stimulate this circadian rhythm so that at the end of the day, your body can produce melatonin at night. Maintaining a regular bedtime and wake time can also help,” Kerry said. “Dimming the lights when it gets dark and being careful not to overstimulate yourself late at night with caffeine, candy, or bright artificial lights will contribute to a good night’s rest, which is crucial for optimal brain health.”
Identify your triggers
“Typically, this is a time of year when people are drinking more, eating more indulgent foods, and the data is clear that processed foods and alcohol play a direct role in mood and mood.” behavior,” he said. “Increased use of these mood-altering substances can be a trigger for anyone with depression or anxiety.”
Kerry went on to say that there are several resources for those who feel the need to communicate.
“There are so many amazing counseling centers and support services in the area. I love the whole body approach we take at Living Well,” she said. “Because mental health is physical health.”
Kerry also gave simple tips that people can do at home or on their own to improve their mood and take care of themselves both physically and mentally.
“Make an effort to add nutrient-dense foods. Some research suggests that tryptophan-rich foods may help combat seasonal depression,” she said. “These include oats, bananas, dark chocolate, dairy, tuna, nuts and seeds, chicken, and turkey.”
“Another thing that continues to show up in research as an effective tool for mood health is movement. It doesn’t have to be incredibly intense cardio, just walking can have a positive impact on brain function,” Kerry said. “Exercise increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which supports synaptogenesis and better communication within neurons of the brain.”
Kerry explained that it’s helpful to have a plan for those who know they’re having a hard time this time of year.
“If you know that you have historically struggled with mental health issues around this time of year, it can be very helpful to put a plan in place before it gets worse,” she said. “Let your loved ones and support team know that this is a difficult time of the year and ask them to control it. Being so vulnerable may seem risky, but we weren’t meant to live in isolation.”
“People in your circle want to be there for you,” Kerry added.
Kerry said that while it may seem like an uphill battle to some, she knows firsthand that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“I know from personal experience how dark the darkness of depression can feel. I know it can feel so hopeless like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, like you never get out,” she said. “But I am living proof that there is always light and there are many tools and resources available.”
People looking for encouragement or connecting with others during the holidays can join Not Alone on Sunday, December 25 and Sunday, January 1 at 11am. Live events will take place at instagram, Facebook Y Tik Tok.
The new 988 number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline went into effect on July 16.
If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org. You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting MHA to 741741.