MAYVILLE, N.Y.: The holiday season often brings unwelcome guests — stress, anxiety, and depression along with a long list of obligations — parties, shopping, baking, cleaning, and entertaining, to name just a few. The added stress, in addition to financial commitments, physical and mental health issues, and relationship conflicts that some of us face can be exhausting and debilitating. For some of us, getting into the “holiday spirit” seems nearly impossible. Despite the demands of the season, the staff at Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene is here to help. If you need someone to talk to, need a referral, or are looking for support we are here for you. Our services are designed to empower individuals in their recovery from the challenges of mental illness and addictions, with locations in both Jamestown and Dunkirk. We offer both walk-in services and evaluations by appointment. All contacts and information are confidential, and all of our practitioners are credentialed.
Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene has two locations. The Jamestown Office of Behavioral Health is located at 200 E. Third St. in Jamestown on the Fifth Floor, phone: 716-661-8330.
The Dunkirk Office of Behavioral Health is located at 319 Central Ave. in Dunkirk, phone: 716-363-3550.
Both clinics are open Monday through Thursday 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Friday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
With a little planning and some positive thinking, you can find peace and joy during the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would. Here are some tips compiled by Misty Pennington, LMSW, Program Coordinator at the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene adapted from the Mayo Clinic and Psychcentral.com to help you to prevent holiday stress:
Realize that some things are out of your control. We cannot control the weather, the traffic, or the actions of other people. When we fight against what is out of our control, we often end up feeling more miserable and stressed out. Instead of stressing about what you cannot change, give yourself permission to let go of the struggle and move forward.
Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can't be with loved ones, realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief. It's OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can't force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.
Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
Be realistic. The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can't come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
Try not to compare. Squash the temptation to compare yourself to others. Whether on social media or in person, comparing can lead to distorted perceptions and feelings of stress. Believe that you already possess all the qualities necessary to attract happiness and success and realize that the things you see on social media might not be an accurate depiction of reality.
Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they're feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Instead, try these alternatives: donate to a charity in someone’s name, give homemade gifts, or start a family exchange.
Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That'll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup. Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every project or activity. If it's not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
Take care of yourself. Self-care is a potent remedy for stress. Often, the more stressed we become, the less we take care of ourselves. Self-care is time well-invested and can prevent burn out. Spending just 15 minutes on yourself without distractions, can really recharge your batteries. You might try exercising, taking a shower or bath, drinking herbal tea, eating a balanced and healthy meal, resting/ getting a good night of sleep, spending time with a pet or friend or engaging in any other relaxing activity that brings you peace. It is impossible to pour from an empty cup, so try to replenish yours as much as possible with healthy amounts of self-care.
Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, please call us at Chautauqua County Behavioral Health Clinics!
If your feelings are too much to overcome by yourself or if you feel like a friend or a loved one is experiencing a difficult time and needs immediate help, the Chautauqua County Crisis Hotline Number is available at 1-800-724-0461. Always, if you are experiencing a life threatening emergency, dial 911.
Have a very happy holiday from everyone at the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene!