Mental health officials speak on how to handle “holiday blues”

Some might suffer from the ‘holiday blues,’ which are feelings of sadness during the holiday season.

Mental health awareness is top of mind for Jeff Dismukes, Director of Communications for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

Dismukes advised that people who get stressed during the holidays take a deep breath and let go of the idea of perfection.

“It’s important to take a step back and really set some boundaries because there’s no reason to ruin the holidays by trying to be perfect. What you want to do is what you can handle and what will allow you to have an enjoyable time,” Dismukes said.

Brenda Senter embraces moments of sadness when she reflects on memories of Christmases past.

“I still have my little ‘blues’ moments. It’s been 19 years,” she said.

Nineteen years ago, Senter found herself divorced and a single mom to her five children.

Her parents had recently passed away. That was a tough time for her. Even now, those holiday blues sneak back in.

“I allow myself to have tears, to live in that moment and then move on. I choose not to live there, but I allow myself a moment of grief,” Senter said.

Senter said looking outside of herself has helped her make it through seasons of sadness.

“My faith is what got me through,” she said.

As families are pulled in different directions throughout the hustle and bustle of the holidays, Dismukes said it’s important to create boundaries and manage realistic expectations when going into gatherings. He also said to not engage in conversations you don’t want to have.

“It’s setting those expectations. Your own reasonable expectations, having a game plan going into it and doing what it is that you can do that you feel is healthy for you,” he said.

Dismukes said that isolation could cause the holiday blues.

For Senter, checking on her neighbors not only keeps them connected but also lifts her spirits.

“There’s always someone who could use your time or your conversation or a cup of coffee and so I get my focus beyond myself, and it makes such a big difference,” Senter said.

Dismukes said that holiday stress could evolve into something more serious that impacts daily life. He said that resources, such as 988, are available. 988 is a phone number to call if you need help with your mental health.

Dismukes said the number has gotten more than two thousand calls and a few thousand texts since the launch in July 2022.

“We have a great new resource in Oklahoma, 988. Three simple digits that you can call and talk to a behavioral health professional. You might not need access to treatment services, but they are still able to help with whatever that situation is,” Dismukes said.