The holiday season is traditionally difficult for many, but with the dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases, financial uncertainty, and fundamental changes to family and social traditions, many feel they are nearing a breaking point.
The recovery community, in particular, requires additional support during this time. Recovery Ways is committed to being part of the solution. The team at Recovery Ways is offering a seven-week course of community outreach and support groups via Zoom with specialized expert facilitators from Recovery Ways.
The first topic was “Depression and Loneliness,” facilitated by clinical therapist Hillary Walker-Gregory, CMHC. The COVID pandemic has had a major impact on the mood of many Americans. According to a Boston University study published in JAMA Network Open, the prevalence of depressive symptoms in adults in the US increased more than three-fold in the spring during the COVID-19 pandemic compared with before the pandemic.
Currently, the COVID impact may be amplified by seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and holiday stress. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression related to changes in seasons that should not simply be brushed off as the “winter blues” or a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own. And the holiday season—even in normal years—often brings stress and depression.
During the online session, Walker-Gregory offered a number of tips for dealing with depression and loneliness during the holiday period.
The most important strategy is staying connected. In his 2018 book, Lost Connections, British writer and journalist Johann Hari argues that depression and anxiety are mostly driven by nine disconnections, including being disconnected from other people, so make sure you reach out to those you love and trust as soon as you start feeling sad or anxious.
Acknowledge your feelings honestly because denying and avoiding them will only make them worse. In therapy sessions, Walker-Gregory frequently advises clients to avoid social media as much as possible because people often present unrealistic versions of themselves on social media. Comparing yourself to such glamorized presentations can cause unnecessary stress and negatively impact your self-esteem.
Practice self-care and stay physically active over the holidays. Many studies have shown that physically active people are less likely to become depressed, and that exercise can be beneficial in reducing depression. Breathing exercises, meditation, and cultivating gratitude are also great methods to mitigate feelings of depression or emotional pain. Simple exercise such as walking is a great place to start.
It is also important to leave any kind of “Hallmark” holiday expectations behind, Walker-Gregory told the participants of the first Recovery Ways Holiday Support meeting. These are also much too unrealistic and will cause mental stress when reality cannot keep up with the cliché.
Remember to reach out and connect with real people! There is one good thing COVID has brought us as far as Walker-Gregory is concerned: lots of opportunities to join online groups—like our Holiday Support Series! You can still join us. Here is the remaining schedule of our series.
If you, a family member, or a friend are struggling with addiction and/or mental health issues, Recovery Ways wants to help. We are dually licensed to treat mental health disorders and addiction. Don’t delay seeking treatment because of the holidays. Our admissions coordinators can recommend a plan of action, suggest an interventionist, or speak with your loved one. For more information, please call us at (888) 988-5217