Look to loved ones to help ease holiday stress

  • Thursday, December 26, 2013

The holidays should be a season of sharing, not a season of anxiety. Yet there are lots of expectations that we put on ourselves and each other.  Trident Health psychiatrist Dr. Yevgeniy Gelfand offers these tips for navigating potential pitfalls and enjoying one another as much as possible. First, be realistic in what you can do and what you can afford. “Put some thought into your presents instead of putting money into it,” says Dr. Gelfand. “It may sound cliché, but it is always the thought, emotion and love that really count.” For some family members, their gift may be in hosting the festivities and preparing the food that goes with it. But instead of letting all the work fall on one person, often a mother or grandmother, Dr. Gelfand urges everyone to help out. “A lot of bonds can be made when we work together,” he says. “Sharing those responsibilities can lessen expectations and bring people closer.” Being with family can bring out the best – and the worst – in how we treat each other.  Sibling issues and other resentments can stoke back up easily.  During celebrations such as Christmas, Dr. Gelfand encourages “spreading the love as opposed to spreading the argument,” though he acknowledges “it takes a big heart to do that.” It helps if we consider the personal challenges and stress that others are going through in their everyday lives. And know that holidays can accentuate grief for those people who have lost a close family member or friend recently, or even in years past. “Grief is something that we don’t want to deal with. A lot of people try to push it in the back of their minds, and then you have this intrusion of grief at vulnerable times.” Those in mourning should take advantage of opportunities to deal with loss with help from others close to them, who may also be in pain. “Don’t push it away. Reminisce and remember the good times,” Dr. Gelfand says, adding that it is also important to “embrace what we have today.” However, there are times when professional help may be needed for overwhelming grief, intense sadness or other mental health issues. If someone is excessively tearful or inconsolable, talks about death and not wanting to be around anymore, or binges on alcohol or drugs, they could benefit from seeing a psychiatrist or counselor. A primary care provider can make a referral, and each county in the Charleston area has a mental health center available. If you feel there’s an immediate danger that someone might hurt themselves, don’t leave them alone, and instead seek emergency help by calling 911. For a free physician referral or if you have a medical question, please call 843-797-3463. Callout: “Grief is something that we don’t want to deal with. A lot of people try to push it in the back of their minds.” - Trident Health psychiatrist Dr. Yevgeniy Gelfand          

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