Why it’s SO hard to keep your New Year’s resolutions?

Over 40 percent of American adults make one or more resolutions each year. But how long do they actually last?

  • Over one week: 75%
  • Over 2 weeks: 71%
  • Over one month: 64%
  • Over 6 months: 46%

Data shows only 12 percent of people making New Year’s resolutions actually achieve them. The problem is that many of us don’t understand what New Year’s resolutions are about- namely, change, usually significant life change. Anyone who has ever tried to change their thinking, emotions, or behavior knows how difficult it is.

So the question that must be asked is: why do we have such a hard time making significant changes in our lives? Continue reading

Are you having a Blue Christmas?

Like me, many of you grew up listening to the song “Blue Christmas” by Elvis Presley. For me it was a holiday tradition, with great harmonies by the Jordaires and one of my favorite Christmas albums. But I never really gave much thought to those who do experience a Blue Christmas.

For many folks this time of year is not a happy, joyful experience. It is common for those that have lost loved ones, divorced, or those with family deployed in the military. For some people, it is a time of self-evaluation, loneliness, reflection on past failures and anxiety about an uncertain future.

The holidays can also exacerbate depression in someone who already suffers from it. Additionally, fluctuations in weather and sunlight caused by the changing seasons can influence depressive symptoms, such as those   experienced by people with seasonal affective disorder.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 19 million American adults suffer from depressive illnesses every year. Unfortunately, many people with clinical depression don’t seek help, even though depression is a treatable condition.

The holiday blues refers to specific feelings and symptoms that can mimic depression such as:

  • Depressed mood
  • Decreased interest in life activities normally enjoyed such as social gatherings, shopping, cooking, hobbies
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue, feeling drained physically and emotionally
  • Sleep or appetite disturbances
  • Anxiety, feeling nervous, edgy or “keyed up”
  • Excessive guilt

Here are some ways to alleviate the holiday blues:

  • Stay connected.  The worse thing you can do for the holiday blues is to isolate yourself. Many people who are depressed during the holidays are also lonely. Spend time with supportive and caring people. Reach out and make new friends, or contact someone you haven’t heard from in a while.
  • Write a gratitude letter.  Write a letter of gratitude to your parents, God, or yourself – detailing all the things that ARE great about your life today. Focus on the positive will be beneficial.
  • Do something for someone else. Try volunteering some of your time to help others.
  • Get moving.  Exercise – even mild exercise – helps alleviate the symptoms of depression. Taking a brisk walk in the am before your day or to wind down after your day – is a great way to beat the blues.
  • Avoid drinking and drugs.  While you may experience a temporary numbing effect – your feelings of “the blues” will only become magnified once you come down off of your drug of choice.
  • Pace yourself.  If you are feeling depressed, don’t say “yes” to everything. Take on one thing or nothing if need be. Do what you feel is realistic.
  • Tell someone.  It will be easier to get through the holidays if someone else knows how hard it is for you. People that love you – want to help.  Talking about what is going on with you emotionally (in talk therapy) is one of the best ways to get through a depression of any kind.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a blue Christmas, click here or a free, confidential, on-line depression screening tool. For more information about depression,  contact Aurora Behavioral Health Services at 877-666-7223 or visit our web site at Aurora Behavioral Health Services

How are your eating habits affected by the holidays?

For many, the holidays represent food-oriented festivities. For individuals with disordered eating, the holidays can be anxiety provoking and overwhelming.   The fact that many of us celebrate the holidays with special meals, treats and parties, can pose a special challenge to our loved ones with eating disorders.

Sandra Blaies, licensed clinical social worker and  Eating Disorder Program supervisor at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital, provides the following suggestions for families dealing with an eating disorder — or for anyone who wants to eat well during the holidays.

  • Try making your family’s holiday traditions more about relationships and activities than about food.
  • The key to success is preparation. Knowing the details of holiday events will minimize stress, anxiety and fear associated with parties, meals and holiday gatherings. Planning ahead will go a long way toward successfully navigating these challenging times.
  • Rely on the support of family, friends and treatment professionals. Establish a good support system and have them on speed dial.
  • Talk to other family members in advance about not pushing food or commenting on diets, calories, or weight loss. Even too much emphasis on trying to make healthy choices at holiday meals can add to the stress.
  • Know how to take a break when events become overwhelming.
  • Remember that it is okay to enjoy food.  There is nothing wrong with having a holiday treat!

Holiday meals can also be a time for progress. Knowing that you need to have your usual good breakfast, that you can negotiate serving sizes and other choices, and planning  what to eat (focusing on taking care of the basic food groups: protein, carbs, calcium, fat, veggies) are good steps to recovery.

NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) also has 12 ideas to help people with eating disorders during the holiday season.

If you or someone you know may be struggling with an eating disorder, please contact Aurora Behavioral Health Services at 877-666-7223 or visit our web site at Aurora Behavioral Health Services.

Are you stressed out by the holiday season?

Stress is a year-round fact of life. But does your stress level increase during the holidays?

Family conflict, “Martha Stewart syndrome”, taking on too much and overspending are just some of the additional stressors you may experience at this time of year.

Holiday stress statistics reported by the American Psychological Association show that up to 69% of people are stressed by the feeling of having a “lack of time”, 69% are stressed by perceiving a “lack of money”, and 51% feel stressed out over the “pressure to give or get gifts”.

Stress is the perception of pressure, tension, worry, fear, dread or anxiety. The way we respond to stress can exacerbate, or even create physical and emotional problems.

Stress contributes to problems such as allergies, muscle tension, upset stomach or heartburn, sore throats, sinus infections, colds & flu, migraine or tension headaches, sleep disorders, high blood pressure, angina, heart disease and heart attacks. And many individuals develop unhealthy behaviors to cope with stress: overeating, using alcohol or drugs, or irritability.

Begin reducing your stress today.

  • Learn to relax
  • Control, change, or let go of what you cannot change
  • Create time to do what you enjoy during the holidays

Change your reaction to the stressful situation.

  • Find the positive
  • Slow down. Think before you react
  • Learn to recognize when you are upset or worried about things you cannot control or change.
  • Avoid spending energy blaming, holding a grudge, or resentment
  • Use the word “no” – sometimes you need to set limits

Embrace healthy ways to manage stress.

  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat & drink in moderation
  • Stay on budget
  • Plan ahead and don’t overextend yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and delegate when possible
  • Relax
  • Nurture your relationships
  • Use stress management techniques, like deep breathing exercises, visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, exercise or yoga can help manage stress (click here for a free, downloadable meditation exercise)

For more information about managing holiday stress, visit our Stress Resource Center and take our confidential Stress Assessment.

If you or someone you know is experiencing high levels of stress, please contact Aurora Behavioral Health Services at 877-666-7223 or visit our web site at Aurora Behavioral Health Services.