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While for some it's the 'happiest time of year,' holidays not so cheery for others

The holiday season is a merry, bright and joyous time for many. However, for others, it can be one of the most difficult times of the year.

"We know that two-thirds of individuals who live with depression and anxiety do tend to feel much more increased stressors during the holidays," said Andy Hagler, executive director of the Forsyth County Mental Health Association.

The time of year to deck the halls is here, but for some, this time of year also comes with something called "seasonal affective disorder." It's a type of depressive mood disorder related to the seasonal variations of light.

"The days are now getting shorter, the nights are much longer," Hagler said.

He says that, coupled with holiday stressors, can really dim the season that's supposed to be so merry and bright.

"The effects of depression — the loneliness, the isolation, the feelings of sadness, feelings of hopelessness, irritability, anger," said Hagler. "Those depression symptoms become more intense."

Whether it's dealing with toxic family dynamics, stress from lingering effects of the pandemic, this year's early flu on-set or even financial pressures, the holiday season can be hard.

"Compounded with individuals living with depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions, these conditions just become more and more acute," Hagler said.

He adds that for people suffering this season, self-care is imperative.

He says people can cope by doing things for themselves like taking walks, star-gazing and setting aside alone time to gather thoughts and de-stress.

"Allow yourself to feel down," Hagler said. "The holidays are also a time to reflect and feel and think -- so if you're having a moment or a time you're not at your best or feeling down, that's okay. These are human emotions."

Hagler says it's important to also stay mindful of healthy habits and watch things like alcohol and caffeine intake.

He says most importantly, though, try to surround yourself with people who support you.

"The main thing is to focus," Hagler said. "This is a season and a time to be with those that support and love you — so if things are less than perfect, it's okay."

Hagler says his office sees an uptick in calls and support groups this time of year.

He adds there is a wide range of services they provide to help people who may be in need this holiday season.

For more information on the services the Mental Health Association in Forsyth County provides, call 336-768-3880.

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