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Mental Health Matters: November 23

Over the river and through the woods! Grandma’s dressing recipe! Family and friends! School holidays! Ho-ho-ho! Merry Christmas! Gift giving! Tamales! Bizcochitos! Travel! Eat, drink, and be merry!

Ah, the holiday season. A time for joy and love and happiness, right? Not always, and not for everyone. The holiday season often brings with it dread, anxiety, and depression. If just thinking about what lies ahead over the next few months makes your stomach flutter even a bit, read on.

The feeling that everything must be perfect, alcohol disrupting a long-awaited function, family issues boiling over, children’s schedules changing, financial realities, loss of family in the past year, unreal expectations… when we consider the stress we can feel during the holidays, it is almost surprising we make it through at all. Signs of stress differ from person to person, but if you find yourself with sleep problems, confusion, or anything that makes you feel out of sorts… check yourself for stress.

The first thing on our to-do list needs to be to acknowledge this reality and to be determined NOT to allow ourselves to lose sight of what is important to us and what we truly want for the holidays. Make a list (I know I write this often) and post it on your bathroom mirror or on your fridge. For example, it might look like this:

  1. I am thankful for my health and I am going to continue my personal health routine.
  2. I love my family and friends, but I won’t let them stress me out.
  3. I will spend within my budget.
  4. Some things are not important and I will not let these things cause me stress.
  5. I can buy or ask someone else to be responsible for food, hosting a get-together, decorations, transportation. I don’t have to DO IT ALL.
  6. Time spent with my children is remembered longer than the latest electronic device.
  7. I can say no to anything that won’t bring me joy.
  8. I will honor my absent loved ones by volunteering my time at the community kitchen, to the Angel Tree, or a donation to their favorite charity.
    Depression during the holidays can be an even bigger issue. Just like stress, many things can contribute to this condition. Here in northern New Mexico, we enjoy over 15 hours of sunshine in August and 10 hours or less in November and December. We know sunlight is crucial for the development of mood-altering hormones. Also, the holiday season falls at a time when we assess the highs and lows of the past 12 months. Recently, our community and our world have both experienced significant lows. Share your thoughts with others. Do not build a wall and think you are alone. You are never alone. Talk with your health care provider and your loved ones. In New Mexico, we have 24-hour access to mental health professionals, by calling (855) 662-7474 or text 988 on your cell phone.
  9. Have a holiday season that makes you happy.


  • Dawn Provencher

    Mental Health Matters: The northern Taos County communities have lost several young people in recent months. Questa del Rio News is starting a column dedicated to mental health matters. Dawn Provencher is a retired counselor. She has a master’s degree in counseling and a master’s degree in social work. She will be contributing to this column on a monthly basis.