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Tips for Mitigating Holiday Depression and Stress

Studies show that people who struggle with depression during the winter months sometimes can improve their symptoms with frequent exposure to bright light or sunshine. Photo: Pixnio

by Eric Galatas

AUSTIN, Texas – While many people look forward to holiday festivities with friends and family, for others this time of year can intensify stress, sadness and depression.

Some people have increased anxiety due to travel obligations, or the expenses of gift giving.

Others neglect self-care, trying to make the holidays special for family or loved ones.

Dennis Gillan, a mental health and suicide prevention advocate who lost two brothers to suicide, says each person needs coping mechanisms to help maintain his or her holiday equilibrium.

“Let’s get comfortable talking about mental health so we don’t have this increase,” he says. “And then, too, if you’ve been down this road, take care of yourself. Self-care is not selfish.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide now is the 10th leading cause of death nationwide, and the second leading cause for people ages 15 to 34.

Since 1999, Texas’ suicide rate has increased by 19 percent.

Matt Wray, an associate professor of sociology at Temple University, has studied why rising suicide rates are higher in the U.S.

He says people thrive on strong friendships and family relationships, and too much solitude at any time of year can bring on feelings of despair.

“Social isolation,” he points out. “And I’m not talking here about loneliness, although loneliness can be a factor in suicide, but more about geographic and social disconnectedness.”

Mental health experts say that for people who struggle during the holidays, this is not the time to cancel therapy sessions.

To reach the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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