Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

December 7, 2013

Hope for the Holidays: Tips for coping with mental illness and addiction this time of year

By Susan Gillpatrick Daily News
Greensburg Daily News

---- — A mile-long gift list, a shrinking wallet, too much to do and not enough time to do it - these are just a few of the holiday challenges that do not bring good cheer. Add battling mental or emotional issues to the mix, and what should be a joyful time of year can quickly become a nightmare.

One in four American adults will have a diagnosable mental illness in any given year. Anxiety, depression, and addiction are three common, yet treatable, illnesses that do not take a break during the holidays. If you or someone you know recognizes the symptoms of one of these issues, there is still hope to successfully survive this hectic time of year. Below are a few simple tips to help you face the holidays without fear!

Anxiety beyond picking the perfect gift

If you have generalized anxiety, you likely dread the gift shopping dilemmas, the budget busting, and the overload of activities more than most this time of year. Experiencing worry and irrational fears for hours a day and not being able to sleep or perform usual tasks are signs that you may have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety becomes unhealthy when it stops motivating you to act. This can happen either because you are concerned about things that are out of your control, worried about things that have not happened yet or paralyzed by the stress and anxiety you feel, rather than being inspired to act. People with anxiety disorders may experience constant worry, anticipation of danger, lack of control, difficulty concentrating and physical restlessness.

5 ways to face the holidays with an anxiety disorder:

• Pinpoint the cause of worry

• Recognize if your reaction is irrational

• Put stress in perspective

• Purge the pressure to do it all

• Look forward to doing only what you really want to do

Not dreaming of a “Blue Christmas”?

Depression is a mood disorder that causes you to feel sad or hopeless for an extended period of time, and it can occur during any time of the year. It is important to know the difference in clinical depression and simply having the blues. Depression is an illness that zaps any interest in activities that used to be enjoyed. Depression is not a sign of weakness, and it is not about just feeling low or having a few bad days. A depressive disorder is an illness that affects the way a person eats and sleeps, the way one feels about oneself and the way one thinks about things.

5 ways to face the holidays while depressed:

• Know depression is not a weakness and is treatable

• Volunteer to serve those in need

• Take special care of your physical health

• Change the rules and create a new ritual

• Continue healthy habits

Experiencing dependence - but not on family or friends

Addiction is a complicated problem and is diverse in its causes and associated costs. An addiction controls your life, your thoughts and your choices. It is a compulsion that robs you of healthy options for coping with life challenges. When “enough is enough,” and you don’t want to be a prisoner to your problems, you can make a life-changing decision. You can create strategies to celebrate the happiness of the holidays without adding temptation to your life. You can, in fact, learn how to get your needs met without your destructive addiction. Take charge of your calendar and of your life. Take one of these steps today.

5 ways to face the holidays with an addiction:

• Recognize and admit your addiction

• Host a party where you set the rules

• Stay connected with healthy friends

• List benefits of overcoming your addiction

• Talk with someone who has been in your shoes

With any mental illness or emotional challenge, it is important to have honest meetings with your doctor and with others who are trying to help you. It is also vital to ask for help when you feel things just aren’t right. Don’t wait until you have reached a breaking point. Seek support today. Take charge of this holiday season by taking care of yourself first!

If you or someone you love needs help, contact Centerstone at 800-344-8802 or visit If you are in crisis, call Centerstone’s 24-Hour Crisis Intervention Hotline at 800-832-5442.

Susan Gillpatrick, M.Ed., LPC, CTS, is a Crisis Management Specialist for Centerstone. She may be reached at Centerstone, a not-for-profit provider of community-based mental health and addiction services, provides a range of programs and services for children, adolescents, adults, seniors and families living with mental health or addiction disorders.