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James J. Peters VA Medical Center

 

Coping with the Holidays!

Coping with the holidays
Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Coping with the Holidays

There is a chill in the air and the holidays are fast approaching.  No matter what race, ethnicity, culture or religion one belongs to, the period between Thanksgiving and New Year has traditionally been called the "Holiday Season." While it is often experienced as a season for giving thanks, gift giving, and celebrating with family and friends, for many, the holidays bring with them loneliness, sad memories, depression, anxiety and stress.

The fact that we are in the midst of war during this time brings a poignant reminder to all of us that we have mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters who we will be missing during the holidays.  The added stress of knowing they are constantly exposed to danger in this "frontless war" makes it even more difficult for those left behind.  Let us not forget that we have among us those who have returned from the war, perhaps after having been deployed not only once but several times.  A significant number are either physically or emotionally disabled because of their experience in this war. There are those who come home only to find themselves alone with no family by their side, in financial ruin with no job prospects, and afflicted with various symptoms of psychiatric disorders including substance abuse.  And there are those who never return.  How do we cope??  How can we celebrate??

The good news is that there are ways to cope with the stress, anxiety and depression that can be brought about by the holidays even in those who have no prior psychiatric history.  Some of the strategies include the following:

Be realistic:  Know what you can and cannot do.  This includes knowing your financial situation so you know what you can afford.  You also cannot expect it to be a perfect happy time for everyone.  Plan ahead to avoid surprises.

Take care of yourself:  Do not overextend yourself.  You cannot do everything nor can you attend all the parties.  Rest and relaxation should be a priority.  Pace yourself. Be careful about what you eat and drink.  Keep alcohol to a minimum.  Exercise regularly.

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