Local Therapist Shares Tips to Avoid The Holiday Blues

The Giving Coast

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Sadly, that statement is not always true for everyone. Barbara Byrne, a licensed psychotherapist and director of Bradenton’s newest mental health clinic, Ellie Mental Health, has 25+-years of experience working with adolescents, families and adult individuals and she reports that there is often an increase in symptoms of depression and anxiety this time of year.

“I think there's this image of the holidays with people gathering around with a Hallmark-like idea of love and happiness and that can really trigger a lot of people,” she says. “Many families are not able to gather during the holidays and by seeing all of the images of happiness portrayed on television or in social media can cause feelings of emptiness and loneliness.”

While the holiday blues can affect people of all ages, Byrne notes that loneliness is a huge factor among our seniors. “So many folks have come to Florida to retire and so they’ve left a lot of their support system, perhaps even pieces of their family and they've got to reestablish themselves and form new connections after they've moved here. Maybe they're trying to get their children to come visit but there are things pulling them to different places so they can't get together.”

Byrne offers coping strategies to those facing feelings of loneliness during the holidays. “First and foremost is self-care, and I know that's an overused word, but basically, what makes someone feel better is very individualized. For some people it's about being with a lot of other people, for others it's doing the things that they enjoy–perhaps it's kayaking or reading or walking in the woods. Try going to the county recreation center or the library so that you're really immersing yourself in your environment.” She adds that volunteering during the holidays can also help you connect with others, which can be very helpful when you’re feeling isolated.

For those who are fortunate to have the company of friends and family during the holidays, Byrne urges everyone to increase their awareness of others who may benefit from invitations to join their activities or may simply appreciate the gesture of asking how they are doing and their plans for the holidays. “Our natural inclination is to not say anything when we may be worried for fear of overstepping, but what we need to do is the opposite,” says Byrne. “I think people appreciate it when people do acknowledge them and recognize that they need something or they're not doing so well.”

Ellie Mental Health is located at 5801 21st Avenue West in Bradenton, 941-909-2716.

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