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Managing depression and anxiety around the holidays

The holidays can surface feelings of sadness and stress. Now, factor in seasonal depression, fear of the unknown, and a global pandemic, it may feel worse this year.

The holidays are meant to be a time of joy, but they can also bring feelings of sadness and stress for people, depending on their circumstances. Now, factor in a global pandemic, a stressful election season, and seasonal depression -- the holidays may feel very difficult for some.

FOX43 caught up with Alexis Milner, a clinical supervisor for Blueprints for Addiction Recovery, which helps people who are battling an addiction. Many of whom, Milner says, also have a mental health diagnosis. 

"I know the holidays can be depressing and hard for many; I think this year it's going to be worse," explained Milner. "Limited access to certain resources. It's definitely taking it's toll. On top of that, it's seasonal depression right now. It's around the holidays."

Many people, including Milner, will not spend the holidays with family or friends. She suffers from Lupus, an autoimmune disease that makes her more vulnerable to COVID-19.

"It's sad, but it's one of those things where if you want to avoid the ICU for Christmas, you may have to give up Thanksgiving," she said.

"Whether you normally deal with feelings of depression or anxiety or you're feeling these for the first time, your feelings are valid, but please know you don't have to endure this alone," reminded Teresa Miller, Secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.

On a virtual call Monday, representatives from Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services (DHS), Department of Health (DOH), and PA's Council on Aging discussed resources for people struggling with anxiety, depression, loneliness, isolation, and other stressors this holiday season.

Persevere PA Support and Referral Helpline can be called any time someone feels down or depressed. It's a 24-hour, 7 days-a-week, listening and referral service provided to all of Pennsylvania during the COVID-19 crisis. Please call 1-855-284-2494 or TTY 724-631-5600 to speak with one of our trained specialists. 

The Department of Human Services has partnered with CCR to create and staff the Pennsylvania Statewide Support and Referral Helpline for COVID-19. The Support and Referral Helpline is a 24-hour, 7 days-a-week, listening and referral service provided to all of Pennsylvania during the COVID-19 crisis.

People can also see what support is available within each county by following this link.

PA KinConnector is an information, referral, and education program for kinship caregivers in Pennsylvania. Kinship caregivers are blood and non-blood relatives who care for children when their biological parents can’t. This includes teachers, coaches, grandparents, etc. KinConnectors assist these caregivers by providing information on financial assistance, legal information and referrals, and other issues caregivers face when raising children to provide stability and permanency in the home. People can call 1-866-546-2111 for support.

A new resource called Strengthening Older Lives Online or SOLO has tips and tools for adults to stay mentally, physically, and spiritually fit.

SOLO - Visme is the Swiss Knife for creating Awesome Visual Content and effective story telling.

Finally, it's important to not forget the basics.

"Talk to your loved ones, talk to your support network. We may be physically distanced, but we don't have to be emotionally distant," reminded Miller.

The CDC also has some recommendations to control stress levels. 

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic may be stressful for people. Fear and anxiety about a new disease and what could happen can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Public health actions, such as social distancing, can make people feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety.

Start by taking care of yourself first. Next, it may be hard around the holidays but try to eat healthy. Also, get out and exercise or stay in and exercise. It'll help with anxiety, fatigue and that sadness that creeps in on us all. By moving your body you may also help you get some good sleep. Finally, the CDC says to spend holidays at your house to keep you and your loved ones safe.

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