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How to navigate the holiday blues
The holidays are often seen as a joyous time, but for many individuals it is a difficult season for various reasons.
Published Thursday, December 13, 2012 4:30 pm
by Wake Forrest School of Medicine

The holidays are often seen as joyous occasions to come together with friends and family.  Many individuals and families, however, will have a difficult time this holiday season due to various reasons. Instead of feeling joy, many people experience the “holiday blues” and do not feel like celebrating.


This could be because of the loss of a loved one, difficult economic times, health issues that prevent someone from doing activities they enjoy, among many other things. However, there are ways that you can reduce stress and unpleasant feelings. It is important to take care of and support all those in our lives that may be experiencing difficult times.


Below are some tips from which everyone can benefit during this holiday season:


1. Set realistic goals for the holidays. Keep expectations simple for yourself and others.


2. Make a budget and stick to it. Financial worries add more stress. Spend what you can afford.


3. Do not overeat or drink alcohol excessively to escape stressful feelings. Eat healthy foods and get plenty of exercise. Excessive use of alcohol only increases your feelings of sadness and can put you at high risk of harming yourself and others.


4. Allow extra time when traveling. Delays will occur because of possible increased security coupled with a high number of people traveling during the holidays. Practice patience.


5. Remember that the holidays are more than one day. The holidays are part of a whole season. Pace yourself. Do not focus entirely on one day.


6. Try a new way of celebrating. Attend a celebration of another faith; give the gift of your time.  


7. Helping others can help you feel better. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, buy a present for a child in need or visit people in nursing homes.


8. Reach out – get involved in the community. Contact local clubs, religious groups or community centers to see if they are holding activities that may interest you.


9. Allow yourself some time to feel sad, angry or lonely. These are real, legitimate feelings. Nurture yourself. Take some time out each day to care for and celebrate yourself.


10. Stay in the present; look forward to the future. Prioritize what is currently important in your life.  Come to terms that life brings changes; embrace the future.  



Signs to seek help


Having the “holiday blues” will pass with the season.  However, you or someone you love may have profound feelings of sadness or depression that do not go away.  Symptoms of clinical depression are:


• Persistent sad, anxious, or empty mood


• Sleeping too much or too little with middle-of-the night or early morning waking


• Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased appetite and weight gain


• Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, including sex


• Irritability or restlessness


• Difficulty thinking, concentrating, remembering or making decisions


• Fatigue or loss of energy


• Thoughts of death or suicide


• Feelings of inappropriate guilt, hopelessness or worthlessness


Depression can affect anyone, regardless of race or ethnicity.


If you or a loved one are experiencing a cluster of these symptoms over a period of several weeks, and if they interfere with your normal routine, it is possible you or your loved one may be depressed. Talking with a licensed mental health professional or taking a depression-screening test can help you understand how well you are coping.  Seek help. 


Do you need further information or have questions or comments about this article? Please contact us at the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity, either via phone (toll-free) at 1-877-530-1824 or: http://www.wakehealth.edu/MACHE.



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