Psychologist offers tips for coping with loss, loneliness during holidays

Published: Nov. 19, 2018 at 12:26 PM EST
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(11/19/2018) - The holidays for many are a happy and joyous time filled with food, parties and family time.

But for some, there's a dark side to this time of year and it comes with holiday depression.

"I think one of the main things is loneliness, since no one's there. You'd be surprised at the number of people who spend the holidays alone," said Dr. Recco Richardson, a clinical therapist with Hurley Mental Health Associates.

He said loneliness can create the perfect storm during the holidays.

"Isolation, finances may change, the weather changes," Richardson said. "If you've already been struggling with anxiety or some level of depression, it all comes together at the same time at the wrong time of the year."

Oftentimes, he said those negative feelings can push people into unhealthy ways to cope, including alcohol and drugs.

So what's the best way of handling the holiday season, if it is difficult for you? It starts with mindfulness.

"Be aware of it. Be aware that the holiday season is coming and to be aware of who you are, where you are at certain instances," Richardson said.

He also advises people to tell a family member or friend how they're feeling.

"Hey it's that time of year. I'm missing such and such. I'm having trouble with this," Richardson said. "You really don't want to isolate yourself. Have at least one person that you're in contact with on a regular basis."

He also recommends sticking to a good diet and exercise regimen. But most importantly be yourself.

"Don't feel pressured to be something that you're not -- to buy something you can't afford, to be places that you usually don't go," Richardson said. "Try to stick with your normal routine. It will keep the stress away. It'll keep you happier. It'll help you get through the holiday season."