Published on December 12th, 2019 | by TLV News1
Beating the Holiday Blues: UM Counseling Center Director Offers Tips for Avoiding Loneliness, Depression
For many, the Christmas–New Year’s season can be a lonely and depressing time of the year, but a psychology expert at the University of Mississippi is offering suggestions for those battling the holiday blues.
One way to overcome unhappiness is to recognize the onset of those thoughts and feelings and alter them before they become embedded in one’s consciousness, said Quinton “Bud” Edwards, director of the UM Counseling Center.
“There could be a number of factors, including stress from family interactions, the shortening of days for those who struggle with seasonal affective disorder and financial pressures, especially if a person’s livelihood is threatened,” Edwards said. “Any of these stressors may begin to foster a sense of hopelessness.”
Changes in behavior are among the early warning signs of depression that people should be on the lookout for.
“People who are normally outgoing may become withdrawn,” Edwards said. “Increases or decreases in appetite and sleep, accompanied by increased substance abuse and a sense of hopelessness are warnings.”
Sometimes, people start giving away personal belongings and saying goodbye to those around them.
“The more of the above signs that are present, the higher the risk, especially if they are combined with a plan to harm oneself and the means to do so,” he said.
Some of Edwards’ suggestions for warding off negative moods/behaviors are:
- Inquire directly about a person’s state of mind and their intent to harm themselves. “Most people tend to be honest about this issue if queried directly,” he said. “Communicating care and concern and reminding the individual that you value their worth as a person and their contributions to their world and in your own relationship can be helpful.”
- Seek professional help when indicated. “This may begin with a short stay in an inpatient unit if a person has an intent to harm themselves and a plan to do so,” he said. “It may also be initiating outpatient services if there are routine thoughts of self-harm, but no current intent. Being assessed by a professional can help a person sort through the appropriate next steps for keeping him/herself safe.”
- Get involved in helping others. “When people are able to help others, it can help put their own lives in perspective, make them feel useful and can diminish the impact of hopelessness,” Edwards said. “Any tangible activity that requires task completion – such as getting out of bed, going to places to help, engaging with others, even gaining some intrinsic reward – can push back against the impact of depressive symptoms.”
Above all, remember that the holidays will come and go. May yours bring better days ahead.
By Edwin B. Smith