Experts discuss beating the holiday blues

Between all the virtual events, the social distancing and the challenges we face this holiday season, it’s important to remind yourself of a few ways you can de-stress or, if necessary, talk to someone. (MC)

Everyone seems to be having a little tougher year this holiday season.

Many who have loved ones considered at risk for COVID-19 were forced to scuttle last-minute plans to see family at Thanksgiving.

Now a new health order that’s just taken effect will once again close down many businesses, some permanently, forcing many to once again reshape their plans and expectations.

Everyone also knows that can be a stressful experience especially, during the most stressful times of year, during one of the most stressful times in recent memory. That’s understood. But what can people do to make things easier?

Whether you’re dealing with more common holiday-related stress issues or have a unique problem is something you’ve never encountered before — or a combination of the two, such as dealing with grief and loss during an unprecedented global health crisis — there are a lot of ways you can make things easier on yourself and your loved ones.

Ways to keep stress lighter

Dr. Raj Gupta, author of “Wellness Center Solution: How Physicians Can Transform Their Practices, Their Income and Their Lives,” and founder of Soul Focus Wellness Center, lists a few ways to beat holiday stress.

Walk somewhere besides the mall. A brisk half-hour walk a day relaxes the brain and improves sleep. A study by California State University found a 10-minute walk increases energy, alters mood and can bring a positive outlook for up to two hours. “There’s a rhythm to it that relaxes the brain,” Gupta says. “It’s a proven stress-reducer. Movement makes the worries keep their distance.”

Drink heavily … water, that is! Many people over-imbibe during the holidays and it has a detrimental affect on their wellness. Water brings weight loss and keeps your body in balance for all kinds of stressors. “A whopping 75% of all Americans are dehydrated,” Gupta says. “Staying properly hydrated is a panacea for what ails you — from daytime fatigue to headaches to back and joint pain to losing weight. Why wait ’til after the holidays to lose weight?”

Give gratitude. In the rush to get everything done, we forget to appreciate what we have. Gupta says pausing to reflect brings a perspective that calms you down. “Take a few moments to really relish your health and all your blessings,” Gupta says. “The holidays are a perfect time to remember all that.”

Overcoming grief

If you’re struggling with loss around the holidays, the challenges can feel intense, but there are tools you can develop, in yourself, that can make coping and being happy again easier, according to Jeff Zhorne, who tries to help people who are struggling to overcome their grief.

“It’s a set of tools and skills to finish what was and stay in the moment — it’s the only way I know to get out of regret and deal with the loss of hopes and dreams,” said Zhorne, who’s worked one-on-one with people at The Grief Program for more than 20 years. 

Zhorne works with clients on “our amends and our forgiveness and our significant emotional statements,” because getting better at “living in the moment” as we’re always told to do, can make things much easier, he said. 

Zhorne offers a free consultation at (661) 733-0692.

Asking for help

“We just know it in theory, and in anecdotal information … also from people we know, and from people we’re working with, that there’s a lot of people out there who are dealing with major personal issues, and these can include issues that they may have had, that are pre-existing to the COVID virus like (obsessive compulsive disorder) or bipolar,” said Larry Schallert, who leads the Suicide Prevention, Postvention and Wellness Committee, which meets inside the College of the Canyons Student Health Center, where Schallert is also assistant director.

While approximately 1 in 4 adults suffer from a diagnosable mental illness in a given year, according to a study done by John Hopkins Medicine, there can be stigma and other perceived challenges in getting help if you need to talk to someone. 

However, Schallert’s group has been working to make it easier for people to get help, and understand all the many resources that are out there.

“We know that mental health is a serious concern of our community but sometimes people do not  know where to turn,” said Larry Schallert, chair of the SCV Suicide Prevention, Postvention and Wellness Committee. “( is a site that is reliable and local, with a trove of information that cannot be found anywhere else.”

The SCV Suicide Prevention, Postvention and Wellness Committee, along with the city of Santa Clarita and numerous other organizations, launched the campaign “Be The Difference” with a website and Facebook page aimed to provide easy access to local mental health resources.

Anyone seeking someone to talk to can see a list of local resources, most free or low cost, at BeTheDifference 

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