Coping with mental health stress during the holidays


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The holidays are a time of year that can bring up a lot of emotions, such as joy, grief and anxiety.

“This has just been a really difficult time for all of us, and there’s no guidebook for how to do this,” said Emily Brandt. She’s the Lead Clinical Therapist at Eason Counseling in Fayetteville.

It’s another year of navigating the holidays during a pandemic. Brandt says a lot of emotions can come up, and that’s okay.

“Around the holidays, there’s often this expectation of glitter and joy,” she said. “But often for many of us, there’s a lot of loss or complicated emotions that come around the holidays.”

“Now is the time to get help if you need it.”

Dr. bryant virden, psychiatrist

Mercy-Fort Smith Psychiatrist Dr. Bryant Virden said Seasonal Affective Disorder can also be at play.

“Around the fall time, people’s moods get down and they have symptoms of depression,” he said, adding that can look like changes in moods, energy levels, sleeping and eating patterns.

“It’s not that we’re choosing to feel that way, our bodies is reacting to a change in the season,” said Brandt. “And in fact, about one in 20 people experience some sort of low mood or Seasonal Affective Disorder.”

Exercise is a key tool to managing feelings of depression. Andrea Fournet is the founder and owner of the Arkansas Yoga Center in Fayetteville. She’s been teaching yoga in Northwest Arkansas for nearly 30 years. She said some people get intimidated when they think about practicing yoga, but she encourages people to see beyond stereotypes.

“Yoga is not just the poses is the breath work,” she said. “It’s the meditation is the mindfulness.”

Fournet said yoga is for people of all ages and is something that can be taken into your everyday lives. She said it’s a chance to put away your screens and connect your mind and body through breath.

“The breath is the first defense against stress. Most of us breathe like this in the sympathetic nervous system,” she said as she demonstrated sporadic breathing with quick breaths. “Whereas (yoga) slows it down.”

Brandt and Dr. Virden also hope the stigma around therapy continues to break down in 2022.

“Just adding language to how we’re feeling and what we’re experiencing is so powerful,” said Brandt. “That in itself of having another human sit across from us and validate our experience that we’re going through.”

“Really the COVID-19 pandemic is just exacerbating isolation and anxiety and depression,” said Dr. Virden. “Now is the time to get help if you need it.”

Click here to learn more about finding a therapist near you.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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