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Overcome seasonal anxiety, depression with gratitude

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Many people suffer anxiety or depression this time of year because of added stress; the loss of a loved one; or even the change of seasons. This year, we have the added experience of separation from friends and family because of COVID-19.

Ashtabula County Medical Center family medicine specialist Adeola Fakolade, MD, said we all may experience occasional feelings of anxiety or depression because of stressors in our lives. However, if we experience these as recurring emotions, we should seek help.

ACMC Psychiatrist Samar El-Sayegh, MD, said coping with deeper feelings of anxiety or depression starts with the patient’s current circumstances. “I meet patients where they are and advise them accordingly based on their individual situation. We consider a variety of options, including therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Talking through the issues that affect each patient helps us develop a therapy plan best suited for that patient.”

For those who occasionally feel overwhelmed by life, our focus can turn inward, so that it is difficult to find the good things in our lives.

“We need to learn the triggers for these feelings and use coping mechanisms to overcome the strong feelings we experience. One coping mechanism is to improve our sense of gratitude,” Dr. Fakolade said. “When we feel stressed, anxious, or depressed, our focus is on ourselves. When we are grateful for the people, events, and things in our lives, our focus turns from inward to outward.”

Psychology studies show gratitude helps people develop more positive emotions, enjoy the good times of life, and helps equip us better to deal with adversity in our lives. There are also added health benefits since our bodies have a positive outlet for stress.

Here are several tips for developing a sense of gratitude:

Thank someone: Offer a “thank you” when someone helps us is a reminder that we do not live our lives in solitude. A “thank you” may have the added benefit of lifting their spirits. It may be even more meaningful to write a thank you note, giving you the opportunity to think through why you are grateful.

Keep a gratitude journal: Writing down why we feel grateful, helps us work through our emotions. Many of us have a difficult time talking or even thinking about our emotional responses but writing about them helps us explore why we react the way we do. A gratitude journal lets us mentally examine the events of our day and see the positive outcomes we may have missed in the moment. It has an added benefit of showing us how we have been grateful for things in the past, which can have a positive effect on our present circumstances.

Meditate/Pray: When we are mindful about our actions, we can examine them without being judgmental. Pausing throughout the day to mediate upon the good things in our lives gives us an opportunity to thank God or reflect inwardly on the good things that occur. As we set aside time throughout the day to see the good in situations, we find it becomes easier to see the good in everything.

Volunteer to help: It may not seem that we have the time, talent, or resources to help someone else, however supporting an effort to help others – whether in person or online – will have the added benefit of lifting our spirits, too.

Since seasonal anxiety or depression can extend well-beyond the holidays, developing a positive attitude of gratitude during these special days can help us throughout the new year, too.

If you need to talk with a psychiatrist about seasonal anxiety or depression, ACMC providers offer telehealth visits as well as in-office visits. To schedule an appointment, call 440-997-6969.