It’s hard to tell when all the joyous merriment of the season tips over into a seemingly undue case of the blues. From social, work and family celebrations, to financial pressure of gift-buying, to the hurry-up-and-party mentality, to skipped workouts, erratic eating and overblown New Year’s Resolutions … the fact is, holiday blues are nearly inevitable. Here’s a spoonful of coping advice from Pace’s Dr. Richard Shadick.
“Remember, holidays are often stressful. Holidays require more of us–more socializing, more shopping, and more running around,” says Richard Shadick, PhD, Director of the Counseling Center and Associate Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Pace University, in an article appearing in Prevention magazine and online at MSN Health. “All of this can be taxing, so adjust your expectations and you won’t be as disappointed if the holidays don’t feel like great fun.”
Don’t go for broke
“Financial pressures are common during the holidays, particularly given the state of the economy in the past few years,” says Shadick. “Don’t assume that you are required to give lavishly if you cannot afford to. Complete a budget and stick to it.” Find thoughtful ways to reach out to people—whether it’s offering to pick up items for a neighbor when you’re hitting the grocery for the sixth time in a week, or just texting a friend who’s entertaining a houseful to see how she’s doing.
Disaster planning tends to focus on responding to the immediate physical needs and injuries of victims. But experts such as Pace’s Dr. Richard Shadick say more must be done to address the mental health impact in the aftermath of tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires, floods, hurricanes and terrorism attacks.
In the first 24 hours, disaster survivors such as those in Joplin, Mo., often exhibit confusion, despair, disbelief and disorientation. The emotional distress often is compounded by concerns about safety and finding shelter.
But mental health professionals urge doctors to be cautious about prescribing medication to ease symptoms. They say drugs sometimes can hinder a person’s ability to cope properly with a traumatic event.
“The goal is to help an individual make sense of their world being overturned. If one is overmedicated, that makes it much more difficult to do the psychological work of moving beyond the trauma,” said Richard Shadick, PhD, director of the Pace University Counseling Center in New York City, in a featured article in this week’s American Medical News.
In cases of terrorism — such as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — fear is a common response among victims. Some survivors develop acute stress disorder shortly after a traumatic incident, Shadick said. The condition can last up to a month and is characterized by anxiety, disorientation, and difficulty sleeping or eating.