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Omaha behavioral health specialist shares advice on dealing with holiday stress

Christmas Tree

​​This article was posted on 10/11 NOW KOLN/KGIN 

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - From decorating to family gatherings, the holidays can be a joyful time for many, but they can also be filled with stress, sadness, or even loneliness for others.

Dr. Natalie Jensen at the Boys Town Center for Behavioral Health sees more of her patients making appointments this time of year.

“I think if they've already identified a tendency towards depressive symptoms, then those can get magnified," Jensen said. “Honestly I think one of the biggest things I see is people putting a lot of pressure on themselves to feel a certain type of way, and then if they don't feel that way there's a lot of self-judgment."

Many can feel overwhelmed by the stress of buying gifts if their budgets are tight, or from hosting a family gathering.

“I think there can be decreased energy, more overwhelmed, lower tolerance for just the daily hassles, everything just feels harder, maybe a tendency towards pulling away from others, feeling kind of alone or self-isolating."

Dr. Jensen says it's alright to acknowledge those feelings.

“And then I think it can be helpful to respond rather than just react. So thinking about, what am I feeling, and maybe what's a step I can take that would be helpful in nurturing this feeling or just addressing it. Sometimes if we don't respond to our feelings and we just react that's when we maybe act in unhealthy ways. We lash out at a partner, we end up crying in the bathroom, which all of that's ok. But I think trying to be more attuned and responsive can go a long way,"

If you've lost a loved one, this time can be especially hard.

“Do what you can to support yourself, whether that is keeping a tradition that you maybe had with a loved one. For others it might be helpful to do something different, create a new tradition."

Dr. Jensen also recommends finding a support group to help.

Take time for yourself and focus on what you can control.

“If we've experienced loss or if we're experiencing financial strain, a lot of that is outside of our control. If you can find your locus of control and focus on what you can take control of, that can be helpful. So maybe if it's spending time with your family, if that's a priority to you, and then that means you say no to other invitations so you can really focus on that quality family time. Maybe it's 'I can't buy a very expensive gift', but I can buy something that's heartfelt and give it to a person I care about,"

f you're struggling with holiday blues, and those feelings stick around even into the new year, you can reach out to the Boys Town hotline. The specialists are available 24/7 via phone or text.

“I like the idea of radical acceptance and it's this idea of accepting the things that we can't change. It doesn't mean that we're happy with them or are ok with it but there's something about just accepting it and really making space for it, that I think is important," says Jensen.

Boys Town also offers the Holiday Helps ebook.