We are officially in “holiday season.” This period is associated with good cheer and warm gatherings with family and friends. Thankfully for many, this is the case. However, many are alone, don’t have family, or have lost family members. So, it’s not surprising that a little over 60% of people struggle with mental health issues during the holidays. In the Latinx community, immigrants may be separated from families and their holiday traditions, while others still recovering from the effects of COVID are unable to celebrate as they have in previous times.
Given the diverse stressors and mental health issues facing our community, IFR has decided to share coping and healing strategies for those facing sadness, anxiety or other mental health concerns during the holidays, and, how we can support others feeling this way. We checked in with one of IFRs clinicians, La Clinica’s Program Director, Julio Gonzales.
“There’s a lot of pressure to be happy during the holidays. Yet, there are lots of reasons why people feel sad or anxious, for example, challenges that include feeling lonely, feeling or being distant from family, and for financial reasons, to name a few. Many want to know how they deal with these feelings or get rid of them. Validating these feelings is important as it is to understand and accept them. The process of acceptance is powerful.
We accept that today will come to an end; we don’t stress about it because we accept it. Acceptance is about building a relationship with what we have now. If we learn to accept our emotions, feel them, and understand our limitations, we can move past them.”
Julio recognizes this isn’t easy to do and can be especially hard for people who are alone during the holidays. Julio’s advice: prep for it.
“Allow yourself to feel and express those feelings. Make it a point to see friends and connect with those you care about. Take advantage of technology to connect with friends and family. I like to tell my clients that they are the writers, the authors, the protagonists of their story. If you don’t like the ending of this chapter, you can change it.”
Julio also notes that sadness during the holidays isn’t always a bad thing. “Outside of the dominant culture, sadness is an important part of the holiday season. For parts of the Latino culture, sadness is a way of honoring those who are no longer with you. I encourage people to learn from their emotions, to understand that it is normal to feel sadness.”
Even if we are not sad or alone ourselves, many often want to know the best way to help others who might need support. Julio offers: “Engage with people if you think they’re in need. Get them talking, try to make things fun or reminisce about past fun things.”
Some might say we shouldn’t try to help and should respect their space. I found that, among Latinos, it’s about connection. The idea is not to intrude, but to guide and assist. What they say is true: it really does take a village. We’re all a part of it.”
In fact, as we get closer to the end of 2022, it’s probably safe to say this has been a year of partial recovery with lots of lingering challenges. We asked Julio how we might look back at those challenges and feel optimistic about a better 2023.
“A new year brings the possibility of starting over or continuing the good fight. It’s an opportunity to acknowledge that we survived the challenges and are still here. We’re celebrating because we didn’t let those challenges get bigger than us. We were able to navigate through them and come out on the other side.
We all need something positive to hold on to. If you don’t have something, create it. Exercise your power, including your power to make decisions about yourself. This is at the crux of self-empowerment.
A wonderful thing about December 31 is the opportunity to decide what to do next. Hopefully, we can all feel proud that we coped and survived. Even if we made mistakes, we’ve learned, can now adjust, and see the new year with more hope.”
Wishing all of you a healthy and happy holiday season filled with positive narratives, fun engagements, and self-empowered hope for the New Year.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, these resources can help:
Suicide Prevention: (415) 781-0500
Mobile Crisis: (415) 970-4000
CRISIS TEXT LINE
24/7 Confidential Support, Text MYLIFE to 741741