The holiday season can be a great time with family and friends, but for others, this time of year can bring some mental health challenges.
"It's important to pay attention to how you're feeling." Janene Gorsett and Marie Sitz are with Trivium Life Services and are helping clients navigate the mental health challenges that can arise around the holidays.
"For somebody with a lot of anxiety," said Gorsett, "going to large family gatherings can be very terrifying for them."
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the topic of mental health into the spotlight, helping people see it's okay to set boundaries for themselves.
"This is a time for you to start becoming selfish," Sitz said about putting yourself first, "Be selfish in a positive way, but being selfish."
Putting your own needs and mental wellbeing first is important and it's okay to compromise, like joining that big family dinner by video call instead of in person.
"COVID has shown us a huge way to use technology with our family with our friends," Sitz said. "Some not even being able to see your family for months on end other than through through through a phone screen or a computer screen. So if you are feeling that guilt, talk about maybe ways that you can join in on the group gathering without actually being present."
If you are attending a large gathering or somewhere where your anxiety or even addiction is present, find a friend or relative you can trust and lean on if needed.
"I talk to (my clients) about having a buddy system," Gorsett said. "So if they're going to a family event and the family has wine or they have whatever alcohol available, talking to somebody else in the family that doesn't drink and is willing to be a good buddy to them."
It's also important to have a safe space, like a bedroom, to go to if you need a moment to yourself, and it's okay to be open and honest with your loved ones, as long as you feel comfortable doing so.
"Talk to them about where's the safe place for you? If you're going to your parents' house, do you have your own bedroom there? Or can you go to your parents' bedroom and just sit and kind of take a few deep breaths," Gorsett said, "do a little meditation if you need to, and just kind of get away from the crowd."
Sitz agreed, "utilized those coping skills that you may have learned when you were a child, the deep breathing, the grounding techniques, even just tapping yourself on your thighs with your fingers."
And if you have to back out of going to that party or need to leave early, remember the most important thing to do is what is best for you.
"It's okay to feel the guilt. But also remember that it's for yourself and to set those boundaries of who you are as a person." If you or someone you know is struggling and need help, there are many steps you can take, including seeking professional help locally, like with Trivium Life Services.
You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or the Mental Health Referral Helpline at 1-877-SAMHSA7.
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