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Managing holiday stress

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The holiday season can be a time of joy for many, but it can also bring feelings of stress and be especially challenging for those impacted by mental health challenges.
The pandemic increased the prevalence of mental health challenges, and a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention poll found that one in three Kansans have recently experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression. With the added stressors of the holiday season, these symptoms can be heightened.
According to the American Psychological Association, 38 percent of people surveyed said their stress increased during the holiday season, which can lead to physical illness, depression, anxiety and substance misuse.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness found that 64 percent of people with mental illness report holidays make their conditions worse. As we enter the holiday season, conversations of mental health and self-care could not be more important.
Esther Kency, LCMFT and clinical coordinator at Central Kansas Mental Health Center, emphasizes the importance of being mindful if holiday stressors start to build up.
“The holiday season has a different meaning for everyone,” Kency said. “Some love this time of year and others dread it. Our attitude and how we think about things has a huge impact on what our experience looks like, so it is important to keep this in mind as the holidays approach.” has some great healthy tips to help us stay focused and make the most positive experience for ourselves.”  
10 Mental Health Tips from
• Learn to say no.
• Spend time with people you enjoy.
• Act responsibly.
• Do everything in moderation.
• Maintain a healthy routine.
• Don’t overspend.
• Don’t isolate yourself.
• Avoid drama and conflict.
• Be practical.
• Identify your triggers
CKMHC Community-Based Services Coordinator Julie Clayson echoed the importance of learning to say no.
“Stay focused on what is important to you, and be prepared to let some things go,” Clayson said. “Maybe use paper plates for dinner instead of a formal setting to save time on clean-up and spend more time with family. Remember, you can do anything, but not everything. Keep expectations realistic and don’t take on more than you can, or want to, manage.”  
Most importantly, remember to seek professional help if needed. If feelings of anxiety or depression are persistent for more than two weeks and interfere with daily life and activities, this could be a sign of an anxiety or depressive disorder and the help of a professional is recommended. Mental health challenges are common and treatable and recovery is possible. Seeking help early at the first signs of a challenge can hasten recovery and avert a crisis situation.  
If you, or someone you love, is struggling, there are resources available. The 988 Lifeline, launched earlier this year, will connect callers with trained counselors and provide crisis support 24/7.

Gretchen Boyum is a Certified Mental Health First Aid Trainer at Central Kansas Mental Health Center. CKMHC provides a wide variety of services, including counseling throughout Dickinson, Ellsworth, Lincoln, Ottawa and Saline counties. Call (785) 823-6322 or 1-800-794-8281 for more information, or visit