Local psychologist offers tips on how to cope with grief and seasonal depression during the holidays

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — While  the holiday season is considered the most wonderful time of the year for many, some are feeling the “Winter Blues”  as Christmas and New Year’s approach.

WWAY spoke with a clinical health psychologist and local residents about coping with seasonal depression, grief, and loneliness this time of year.

Many people experience seasonal depression, grief, and loneliness during the holiday season.  One man says he is planning to cope this holiday season, by spending it with his loved ones.

“My mom’s in the hospital right now, and she’s having some difficulties. So, I’m pretty sad that she is in there, but I wish that she would be able to come home and be out for the holidays, but unfortunately she won’t be out, but I’m going to go in there and make her feel good and loved,” said Marlin McCullough, resident.

Another says he believes many people find it challenging speaking with friends and family members about seasonal depression and grief during the holidays, but believes it to be necessary to cope.

“There’s sort of an expectation that this is a time you have to be happy and you have to be merry, and I think people who are dealing with grief feel like I really can’t talk to other people, because you know – I don’t want to in any way diminish their holidays,” said Andy Wartenberg, resident.

Both men believe the pandemic has helped more people understand the importance of emotional support.

“Due to the pandemic, and such things like that–people being out of work, and things like that. So I think like family members and friends are definitely a lot more—not so much sad, but just like understanding and there for each other for the holidays, because everybody knows that’s probably the most important thing,” said McCullough.

Kathleen Young, a clinical health psychologist and director of behavioral medicine at New Hanover Regional Medical Center, offered tips on how people experiencing seasonal depression, grief, and loneliness can lift their spirits.

“Be active, get outdoors, and exercise, just do things to take care of your body. Do your best to have good sleep habits, and eat well, and just find things that you usually like to do, and even if you feel like doing them, doing it anyway,” said Kathleen Young.

Young also advised people experiencing signs of grief or seasonal depression to limit their time on social media, to prevent both from worsening.