The holiday season is here, and although this is usually a joyous time of year, it can be an especially stressful time for those who experienced loss because of the recent hurricanes in Louisiana. To help people cope, the Department of Health and Hospitals-Office of Mental Health is offering counseling services and stress-relief tips.

“We know this holiday season will be a difficult one for many of our citizens,” said LDH Secretary Dr. Fred Cerise. “The holidays can intensify feelings of grief and loneliness. Also, the contrast to past holidays may aggravate the losses people have experienced in recent months, and the stress of preparing for holidays when money is short and family members are scattered can be overwhelming. We want to let people know that help is available during this time.”

To be able to enjoy the holidays despite these feelings, LDH mental health officials advise citizens to think ahead about ways to adapt traditions to meet the current circumstances. “Don’t put pressure on yourself to have the ‘perfect’ holiday. Planning celebrations that accommodate your feelings can reduce stress and make the holiday a day of healing,” said Dr. Cheryll Bowers-Stephens, LDH-OMH assistant secretary. “Have a holiday that fits how you feel.”

To turn Thanksgiving and other upcoming holidays into a time of healing, it is important for people to acknowledge that things have changed in the past year. 

“Prior to the holiday, each person should consider the question, ‘How did I get to this day in this place?’ The answer will include the many traumas of upheaval, but it will also include moments of help, support, togetherness and kindness with loved ones,” Dr. Bowers-Stephens said. “Citizens also can come up with ways to honor those who lost their lives during the hurricanes as part of their activities, as this will help them celebrate their lives. The journey from disaster to recovery takes a long time, but being aware of even small kindnesses is empowering and will help everyone tackle the difficult rebuilding that lies ahead.” 

Such observations of the holiday may not help everyone to manage their emotions.  Anyone experiencing overwhelming feelings of sadness or loss is encouraged to call the statewide crisis hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to speak to a certified mental health counselor.

Please visit www.laomhlegacy.org for more holiday mental health tips.

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