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How to navigate mental health during the holiday season

A mix of cloudy days, stress from holiday gatherings, and the loss of a loved one can be hard on many during the holidays.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — While the holidays bring cheer and bright lights, for many they can be emotionally difficult to navigate.

There can be many factors that cause this such as stress over holiday gatherings, the lack of sunlight, or even the loss of a loved one 

"There can be that whole sense of isolation promoted, a lot of times, by social media - that everybody is happy and the beautiful pictures and decorations," said Jennifer Wolff, with JJ Wolff Counseling Services.

She added that the first step is accepting emotions because it's "OK to not be OK."

Ranae Casterline of Irmo knows how hard it can be first-hand.

"I have a really hard time putting up the Christmas ornaments," she said.

Casterline lost her husband unexpectedly in August and is learning how to navigate the holiday season without him.

"I've tried to do different things that we didn't do as a family, like, I went to the tree lighting in Newberry, with some friends - things that we had not created memories with we make new memories," she said. "Also, I think surrounding myself with family and my friends has helped tremendously."

It's also important to reach out to others during the emotional journey while remembering to find a balance, Pastoral Counselor Shaniqua Karanja of Radiate Church said.

"Maybe call a friend, check in with a couple of people so they know you are OK and if you need anything," she said. "But don't over-commit and just be patient and kind with yourself - it's a difficult time."

For those not experiencing grief but more so stress from the holidays, Wolff said to take time to rest, provide themselves with self-care, get active, and be gentle with themselves. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) - South Carolina also has a list of resources for those who need them.

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