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Holidays can be difficult

Are you in full holiday spirit yet?

This can be a very fast paced time a year with time being the most valuable commodity. Shopping, holiday parties and preparing for those family gathering can overwhelm us! However, sometimes this can be a difficult time of the year for both young and old. Joy and happiness fills the air during the holiday season, but it can also bring feelings of grief and loneliness. We should always pay attention to those around us, but this time of year can be particularly challenging for some of us.

Many stressors associated with our personal mental health condition surface during the holidays; personal grief (maybe from not being with someone who passed away), loneliness, economic concerns, separation from family members, relationship issues like separation or divorce, gift giving, hosting get-togethers, decorating and comparisons or judgments to/by family, friend or others. Excessive alcohol use is often a way people choose to deal with these stressors. Of course, that may open up further problems. Sometimes the greatest gift you can give, is self-care.

Here are a few tips for the holidays:

• Don’t compare or ruminate over cultural or perceived expectations.

•Be realistic, you can’t please everyone and it’s OK to say no.

• Keep family dynamics in mind and have a plan before things become overwhelming.

• Volunteering can be very comforting and can prevent loneliness

• Practice self-care — take time for yourself — use coping skills like relaxation or exercise

• Make a list — what things really have to happen and what things don’t — pros and cons

• Get professional help if needed. Some people may be suffering from what used to be known as seasonal affective disorder, now Recurrent Depression with Seasonal Pattern. One such resource is the 24-hour, 7 days a week Crisis Response for SE Minnesota, 844-274-7472.

Lastly, talk with your kids. Sometimes parents struggle having conversations with their teens on any subject. Check in and see how they are doing. Maintaining open lines of communication are very important and sometimes start by asking simple questions. Our coalition wants to help with some tips for starting these conversations. Make sure you check your mailbox near the holidays as our coalition will be starting a “Simply TALK” campaign to help spark conversations with your teens about alcohol.

Bill Spitzer is the Planning and Implementation (P & I) Coordinator working closely with APAC (Austin Positive Action Coalition). He can be contact him at the Austin High School 507-460-1800 ext. 0361 or via e-mail bill.spitzer@austin.k12.mn.us. To learn more about the Parenting Resource, visit their website at www.familiesandcommunities.org