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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Holidays: Being alone doesn’t mean you have to be lonely

What do you mean when you say that being alone doesn’t mean you have to be lonely? Loneliness is a choice. Each of us has options and choices by taking risks to become involved in the holiday festivities. Just because you are single during the holidays doesn’t mean you have to be lonely.

The Holiday season is a lonely time for many people in our community. What are some of the common reasons for the loneliness?
• Divorce. Perhaps a divorce has created a situation where a single person is alone during the holidays due to visitation agreements.
• Death. The loss of a spouse can be a terrible time for grief and loneliness, especially if it is the first year that you have not been with your loved one during the holiday
• Past memories. Many people feel lonely or sad because of old memories from their childhoods. Perhaps holidays remind people of times of abandonment, dysfunctional family gatherings, or times in which they felt hurt or abused
• Not being close to family members. Distance from relatives or friends can cause great sadness and loneliness for many people. This may be especially true for people who have just moved away from their support systems or families.

If you feel lonely during the holidays, what are some suggestions for beating depression?
• Do something for someone else. Volunteer. Work at the Salvation Army and serve dinners to the homeless. Do something for a senior and spend time with them during the holidays. Buy gifts for those in need, or make donations to Toys for Tots or the many community charities.
• Look up an old friend and re-establish a relationship. Use this time to rekindle friendships and avoid isolation.
• Accept holiday invitations. It may be difficult to go to parties or get-togethers during the holidays, but being proactive about joining others will help beat depression.
• Attend a holiday group festivity at your church or synagogue. Most religious affiliations have holiday services, gatherings or other activities which foster togetherness.
• Watch the television, read the newspaper, check out church fliers and discover some holiday activities within the community. Go to the group sing-a-longs, go with co-workers to the Festival of Lights, or discover some new activities you can do with others.
• Talk to your support system about feelings of loneliness. Stuffing your feelings and keeping them locked inside will only lead to more depression.
• If you find yourself persistently blue or depressed, contact a licensed mental health counselor for assistance.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

State of Stress

It’s not your imagination—your stress level is going up! A recent survey by the American Psychological Association has confirmed that Americans are in a “state of stress.”

Tell us a little about the findings of the recent survey.
• American’s biggest stressors are money and work, which has increased in ratings from last year
• Rising housing costs rates as a high stressor for 51% of the population
• 32% of American’s report feeling extreme levels of stress on a regular basis. Add to that statistic, the fact that almost 50% of Americans believe their stress is dramatically higher than what it was just five years ago.

Are there any other differences reported in the current survey?
• Residents of the Western states report a higher degree of physical stress and tend to be less effective in managing their stress levels.
• Residents of the West tend to report more headaches, upset stomach and tightness in the chest than those in the Eastern Region of the country
• Residents of the Eastern states are more likely to see work as their main stressor with heavy workloads, choiceless jobs, and inflexible hours.

Are there any trends related to gender?
• 82% of women report experiencing physical symptoms of stress in the last month vs. 71% of males
• Women tend to experience more sleep problems (25% say they lose more than one hour per night) , overeating, & skipping meals
• Women tend to abuse more prescriptions due to stress.

What can we do to minimize our stress?
• Learn to say NO. Don’t take on more than you can handle
• Learn to balance our work, family responsibilities, and personal life
• Consider reaching out to a licensed therapist to assist with techniques that help minimize anxiety and discover methods for lowering stress through stress management techniques.