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Pandemic compounds seasonal mental health concerns

2 On Your Side sought expert advice on how to balance things out and perhaps put more 'happy' in your holiday season with some mental health tools you can use.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — As families and friends gather against the backdrop of COVID and the stresses of life in general, we have some expert advice on how to balance things out and perhaps put more "happy" in your holiday season with some mental health tools we can use.

No one will ever have all the answers. But here are just some things to really keep in mind in a time when we're all supposed to be merry. 

First, those holiday family traditions really have meaning, from treasured hand-me-down ornaments, to baking cookies, to just connecting.

Dr. Sourav Sengupta is a UBMD psychiatrist with a focus on children and adolescent practice. He says "I think holiday traditions especially, they can be ones that really introduce some joy and levity at a time where things have been really stressful."

And speaking of the kids, they may see us adults worried about COVID consequences and their schooling. Dr. Michael Cummings is also a psychiatrist who practices at Erie County Medical Center.

"We really struggled getting our kids back in school," he said. "Spent much too much time getting them back in school, and now they're going to be off for a couple of weeks. It's going to be important to give them free time and be flexible, but also kind of keep them a little bit on schedule so they can go back smoothly again."

And let's not forget in this spiritual season. Even if  you personally are not religious. faith is something that can be powerful to help and heal. That's especially true with COVID, where we may feel helpless.

Dr. Cummings says, "There's uncertainty, and that level of unconnected-ness, and having something that you can believe in. Whether it's family, whether it's faith in church, whether it's some other institution that brings you comfort and solitude is super important.

"I know a lot of churches are doing a lot of things to make Masses and services occur, but also to be in a safe way. And I think it's important to embrace those things, particularly if it's important to you and your loved ones."

Then maybe to really celebrate, just keep it simple for inner peace of mind.

Dr. Sengupta noted: "It's all right if things are just OK. You know, just the fact that we're together, we're spending some time together with our loved ones, that's going to be the thing they'll remember, that things don't have to be perfect. And for those that are still feeling stressed, remember that the holidays end, and we move on, and we turn the page."

For more mental health assistance at this sometimes challenging time of year you can contact Crisis Services at 716-834-3131, or check out the services of ECMC.


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