Dealing with the holiday blues doesn't have to get you down

November 30, 1993|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

The Thanksgiving leftovers are barely gone and the Christmas season is in full swing.

It's a hectic time of year, marked by gift-buying, holiday parties and family celebrations.

And for many people who are dealing with the death of a loved one or another significant loss or life change, the holidays also can be a particularly difficult time of year.

But those who are experiencing feelings of depression and loneliness don't have to suffer through the season. Several Carroll organizations are offering workshops to help people cope with holiday-related stress.

The Displaced Homemakers' Program at Carroll Community College is offering the noncredit course "Handling Holiday Stress: Tactics That Work," from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday. The cost is $5.

Carroll Hospice's workshop Dec. 7, "Coping with Loss Through the Holidays," is for those who have lost a loved one or someone significant in their lives to illness or suicide.

And the Phoenix support group, for widows and widowers of all ages, is holding a support group and a dinner during the holiday season.

The Displaced Homemakers program serves individuals over 30 who, after taking care of a home and raising a family, find themselves in the position of having to enter the work force.

Kay Shattuck, coordinator of the program, said she decided to offer the workshop because many of her clients had expressed concerns about the approaching holidays.

"Women in general tend to be Type-E personalities -- everything to everybody," Ms. Shattuck said.

"Our clients are single, divorced or widowed, and they tend to fall into that category much more easily. There's not someone there to share the burden with."

For those who are feeling overwhelmed by the holidays, Ms. Shattuck offers a few suggestions:

* Be good to yourself. Eat properly and get enough sleep.

* Learn to say no.

* Realize that the holidays can be stressful and don't expect perfection.

"We have the expectation that we have to have this perfect family celebration or we won't have been good moms," Ms. Shattuck said.

"We need to remind ourselves that the holidays bring out some tensions that we don't usually deal with the rest of the year."

Having unrealistic expectations for the season is a frequent contributor to holiday stress.

"People make the assumption that they can truly be a family and have their needs met by people that have formerly not met their needs," said psychotherapist Steven Mednick, director of Carroll County Family Counseling.

Mr. Mednick recommends that people use memories of previous holidays to form more realistic holiday expectations. He also suggests letting family members know what you're expecting from the holidays, something many people never do.

For example, before going to a family gathering, "start a dialogue with your loved ones. . . . Let them know 'I'd like for you to involve me in the conversation and to spend some time with me instead of just socializing with everyone,' " Mr. Mednick said.

Lynette Brewer, community services supervisor with Carroll's Bureau of Aging, said the subject of holiday stress will be on the agenda at the next meeting of the Phoenix support group for widows and widowers, at 7 p.m. tomorrow. The group will meet at 301 Klinger Drive in Westminster.

Members plan to discuss ways to reduce stress and depression during the holidays.

The Phoenix group will meet for dinner at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 15 at Bullock's Airport Inn in Westminster.

"It's so easy to neglect yourself when you're feeling depressed, lonely and sad," Ms. Brewer said. "We always encourage them [Phoenix members] to get together with each other over the holidays."

To register for the holiday stress workshop sponsored by the Displaced Homemakers' program, call 876-9617.

For information about Carroll Hospice's workshop, call 857-1838.

For information about the Phoenix support group for widows and widowers, call Lynette Brewer, of the Carroll County Bureau of Aging, at 848-4049.

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