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‘Start with gratitude’: Mental health expert’s advice for a pandemic Christmas

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POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – This Christmas will look much different for the thousands of families who have lost loved ones or lost jobs during this pandemic, so experts urge people to take note of their mental health.

“It’s a time where loss is magnified. If you’ve had something tragic that year, for instance, income loss, financial troubles, there’s so much expectation for people this time of year,” said Alice Nuttall, MBA, RN, BA, Associate Vice President, Behavioral Health Services at Lakeland Regional Health.

People are reminded this Christmas should not feel like all the others.

“When we lower our expectations, our happiness and joy actually increase,” said Nuttall.

Nuttall differentiates between “joy” and “happiness,” saying moments of joy can be experienced in even the darkest of times.

“Even in times where you’re feeling frustrated, upset, if you’re in times of pain or grief, there are still glimmers of joy. There are things that connect you to what’s most meaningful in this world,” she said.

Nuttall cites a Journal of Psychoactive Drugs study that shows 80% of Americans reported loneliness is a factor in their lives.

So, you’re not alone if you’re feeling lonely.

“Start with gratitude. List the things that [you’re] thankful for,” she said.

While some people are dealing with grief or financial hardship, other people will be spending the holidays alone to protect loved ones from COVID-19.

Some recommendations to cope: bake a treat with someone over video conference, watch a movie while on the phone, volunteer, make donations or connect with a friend you haven’t spoken to in awhile.

“Take a minute to text them a couple sentences about a positive impact they had on their life, maybe even years ago,” she said.

Connect with senior citizens in your neighborhoods, especially those who are staying home this holiday season and aren’t up to speed with virtual technology.

If you are feeling sad beyond the holiday blues, finding it difficult to eat or sleep or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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