Let sadness run its course and be kind to ourselves this Christmas



Holidays can be a stressful time for families and individuals. Add in the stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic and anyone’s mental health may suffer. That’s why it’s so important to work toward protecting our mental wellbeing from the get-go or to seek help when our usual coping mechanisms aren’t quite cutting it anymore.

Paying attention to how we feel is the first step. According to Recco Santee Richardson, PhD, LPC, Clinical Therapist, of Hurley Mental Health Associates, with all the holiday commotions, it’s easy to be caught off guard if we become anxious, upset or worried.

“We need to be mindful of how we’re feeling and have a plan for if we do start to have such feelings. We need to be aware of any subtle or sudden changes in our moods or behaviors,” he explains.

That plan he’s referencing is a plan to take care of ourselves. It could involve getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, getting fresh air or just taking time to enjoy the moment.

“The things that bring a smile to our faces or make us relax, we have to make sure we do those,” Recco says. He encourages everyone to make time for activities that bring them pleasure and joy, whether it’s reading, crocheting, watching movies or writing.

Although it can be depressing that many festivities are out of the question due to COVID-19, remain hopeful. Stay busy and take this time to plan for something next year, as soon as it’s possible. In the meantime, use phone calls and virtual gatherings to stay connected. It’s also a great time to pull out those memory books. If you do feel sad, embrace it.

“Let it run its course—it’s an important feeling. Depression is the accumulation of sad experiences that were not processed adequately,” Recco warns. Since the holidays can be extra hard on children ages 8 to 12—more so than for teens, Recco recommends listening to how those children feel and trying to accommodate them as much as possible. The elderly, who often view family as a lifeline, also may find their mental wellness hit especially hard by the physical distancing required by COVID-19 this holiday season. To counteract that, Recco encourages family and friends to send cards and make frequent phone calls to help their loved ones maintain that human connection.

Being kind to ourselves is crucial. Recco urges us to not feel shame or guilt if we can’t buy everything our families deserve and to not get upset if someone can’t get time off work. “Do not feel bad about what you can’t do or where you can’t be in person,” Recco stresses. “That’s nothing to feel guilty about. That’s where we get holiday depression.”

If you or your loved ones experience mental health difficulties, don’t struggle alone. Seeking help is admirable and Hurley Mental Health Associates are here for you every step of the way. As one of Michigan’s largest outpatient mental health clinics, this highly skilled team is known for customizing therapy to meet the needs of each patient, whether they’re an adult, child, adolescent, teen, minority, or individual with handicaps or disabilities. Contact Hurley Mental Health Associates at 810-262-2100 or mentalhealthinfo@hurleymc.com to schedule an appointment today.