By dianna Huddleston, Director of Comprehensive Services, Boone and Hamilton Counties

Aspire Indiana Health

It’s no secret that while the holiday season is one of joy and togetherness, it and the winter that follows can also be a challenging time for many people. They find themselves dealing with loneliness, anxiety and depression. Now, more than ever.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 65% of people with mental illness report the holidays make their conditions worse. Even those who do not have a diagnosed mental health condition can experience increased incidence of depression, substance abuse, domestic violence and suicide ideation during the holiday season.

And of course, the 2020 holidays had the added stress of COVID-19 pandemic, with the Centers for Disease Control and other leading health organizations strongly cautioning against traveling or gathering in large groups. 

Not seeing your mother, father, sister, brother, children, grandchildren, friends and other loved ones for long periods of time can act as an accelerant on what was already a slow, constant burn of mental stress. Human beings are naturally social creatures, and long episodes of withdrawal from large swaths of our personal network will take its toll.

Here are some steps you can take to help manage the depression and anxiety associated with winter season.

  • Think about different ways to celebrate the holidays that don’t involve gathering in the same place. Have a Zoom (or Skype, or Meet, etc.) trivia night. Open your presents via video. Share recipes and everyone make the same dishes to share. Use your imagination!
  • Keep a normal schedule and routine as much as possible. Even if you’re not going into work like normal, it’s important to do simple daily things like showering and eating at your regular times. Keep up with household chores and keep your home tidy.
  • If you’re feeling isolated, reach out to others. Whether it’s a phone call, a video call, email or letter, if you haven’t talked to an old friend in a while, reach out! They probably need that connection as much as you do. There’s no better way to help yourself than to help someone else.
  • Take care of your physical health. Our minds and our bodies are interconnected, so take care of your whole person. Focus on a good diet and regular exercise, even it’s just taking regular walks. Try deep-breathing exercises, meditation or yoga. And get plenty of sleep.
  • Consider joining online community, religious or social support groups. These days many of them are hosting regular virtual events where you can connect with other people experiencing similar challenges, or just find someone to chat with.
  • If the mental stress and strain of the holidays becomes too much to bear and is negatively affecting you or your family’s quality of life, do not hesitate to reach out for counseling. 

Though there is remaining stigma associated with mental health problems, we at Aspire believe asking for help is actually an act of courage.

If you don’t already have a mental healthcare provider, Aspire Indiana Health is here to help. We are the official state-designated Community Mental Health Center (CMHC) for Hamilton County and have been serving the area for more than 50 years as a nonprofit provider.

Aspire has a large team of experienced, licensed clinicians to provide individual, family or group therapy to Hoosiers from every walk of life, from children to seniors. We are a “whole health” provider of comprehensive healthcare services including behavioral health, primary medical care, addiction services and various programs addressing the social determinants of health, such as housing and employment. 

In Hamilton Aspire has clinics in Carmel and Noblesville, or you can choose to have your appointment via Video in Person, where you have a face-to-face conversation with a mental healthcare professional over your computer or mobile device. This has become a very popular choice during pandemic as people feel safer sheltering in place whenever possible. 

Visit www.AspireIndiana.org to learn more, or call (877) 574-1254 to set up an appointment. We accept Medicare, Medicaid and most forms of private insurance. Don’t wait to get the mental healthcare you need, whether during the holidays or on any day.