The holiday season enters the final stretch this week, and while it can
be a joyful time spent with friends and family, for some people it's
not necessarily - in the words of one Christmas carol - "the most
wonderful time of the year."
Alexandra Barbehenn, a therapist and member of the National Association of Social Workers, says pressures run high during the holidays, for many reasons.
"There's stress about finances, stress about difficult relationships
with family members and having to spend time with them. It just kind of
accentuates a lot of things that are going on for people that people
may not be aware of, or as in touch with at other times of the year."
While many suffer from feelings of loneliness and isolation during the
holidays, Barbehenn says the most important thing people can do - take
good care of themselves - can also be the most difficult, when there
are so many competing holiday demands.
"Stick to exercise, trying to eat well and get adequate rest and sleep.
Volunteer at a shelter. Get out in nature; take a walk in the woods.
Sometimes, attending a religious service can be very meaningful for
Mental health professionals also urge parents not to forget about the
youngsters. A new federal report says only about half of children with
mental health conditions are getting help.
Washingtonians don't have to go it alone, Barbehenn adds; there are
many resources for people who need help coping with lingering
depression or anxiety, whether during this season or throughout the
year. If you or someone you know needs help, she suggests finding a
licensed therapist or social worker, or visiting one of the community
mental health centers.
The report is from the National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey, published in this month's journal, Pediatrics.