Doctor offers advice on coping with holiday depression and stress

For many, the holiday season is a time for festivities with friends and family. But for others, this time can bring on or worsen stress, anxiety and depression.

Managing mental illness is always challenging, but it can be particularly difficult during the holiday season. 

“The dizzying array of demands during the holidays may feel overwhelming at times,” said Dr. Jessica Peterson, medical director of the Leesburg Regional Medical Center Senior Behavioral Health Center. “However, with some practical tips, you can minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would.”

Those tips include:

  • Don’t force yourself to be happy just because it is the holiday season. It’s normal to feel sadness and grief if you can’t be with loved ones.
  • Volunteer to help others or seek out community, religious or social events.
  • Change your expectations and realize that the holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like they were in years past.
  • Plan ahead and stick to a budget for gifts and food.
  • Don’t try to participate in every project or activity – learn to say no.
  • Overindulgence only adds to stress and guilt. Stay on track with healthy eating, regular exercise and plenty of sleep.
  • Make time for yourself – go for a walk, listen to music or read a good book.

Despite their best efforts, some people may find themselves feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, they should talk to their doctor or a mental health professional, according to officials.

Fortunately, there are a variety of treatment options available and the LRMC Senior Behavioral Health Center carries the mission of offering comprehensive therapy that understands the uniqueness of aging.

While the struggle can feel isolating, doctors say, it’s important for people to remember that they’re not alone.

“Be sure to seek help from professional mental health services if you are having a hard time finding peace and joy on your own,” Peterson said. “We offer an environment where adult patients feel comfortable, secure and ready to engage in their recovery.”

It’s best to consult a doctor to help decide on the treatment plan that will be best. Admitted on a voluntary basis only, patients receive individualized treatment from a caring, supportive program. The LRMC Senior Behavioral Health Center can be reached at (352) 323-3270.

Leesburg Regional Medical Center is a 329-bed acute care hospital that has served Leesburg and the surrounding communities for more than 50 years. As Lake County’s largest tertiary care hospital, LRMC offers advanced cardiac care at its Heart Institute, which includes one of the largest open-heart programs in Florida. The American College of Cardiology recently recognized LRMC for its demonstrated expertise and commitment in treating patients with chest pain by awarding a Chest Pain Center Accreditation with Primacy PCI and Resuscitation – its highest and best level of accreditation.

The hospital also offers advanced orthopedic care at its dedicated inpatient Joint Center and provides both neurosurgery and medical neurological care. To learn more, visit