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Managing mental health issues over the holidays

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Indianapolis, Indiana – Many people who experience loneliness, stress, or the loss of a loved one over the holiday season find it to be a trying time.

According to IU Health psychologist Amanda Wakefield, anticipatory communication is essential to averting challenging circumstances.

“It can be especially difficult when there is a change in family structure, whether that be a new marriage,” Wakefield said. “It can also happen with the loss of a family member and you know, grandma always hosted Christmas, but she is no longer there, and a lot of times, the biggest thing is to give yourself some grace and to set some boundaries around the holidays.”

It’s vital to acknowledge that grieving over the holidays is common after going through a challenging shift or losing someone you love.

“Finding a balance between allowing yourself to grieve healthily and finding ways to engage in the holidays either in traditions that honor that person or in new ways that create a path forward for you,” said Wakefield.

The surgeon general of the United States, Dr. Vivek Murthy, stated that loneliness is a widespread problem that makes the holidays much more difficult for people.

“One in two adults are struggling with loneliness and the numbers are even higher among kids,” said Murthy. “This truly is a public health threat and needs to be a public health priority.”

According to Dr. Murthy, loneliness can have detrimental long-term impacts on both mental and physical health.

“Most people think about loneliness is just a bad feeling, but it is much more than that,” Murthy said. “And we know that when we struggle with a sense of loneliness and isolation, it increases our risk for depression and anxiety, but also for heart disease, for dementia, and for premature death.”

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