Savannah mental health experts weigh in on managing stress this holiday season

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV)— The holidays can be a stressful time for many, with financial and family tensions.

Now, local mental health experts are weighing in on managing anxiety in the coming weeks.

Therapists at Hillside say this holiday season is likely to come along with additional stress since many people will not be able to see family members due to the pandemic.

“If we don’t feel like we can maintain our bubble to prevent infection well, that could be a huge source of stress,” LPC, NCC Gaan Akers, Clinical Education Manager at Hillside said.

This year’s celebrations are likely to look different than years prior, and Akers says it might help to be open to changing traditions this year.

She says it’s important to reach out to loved ones virtually over the holidays if you can’t see them in person and to be realistic about expectations.

“You may also feel stressed, sad or anxious because your holiday plans may look different during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Akers said.

Hear more advice from Gaan Akers below:

Akers says between the usual cooking, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, holidays apart might even lift some of this pressure off of families this year.

“We all just need to give each other a lot more grace,” she told News 3. “We might just need to say it out loud and say, ‘you know what, we really hate that we’re going to miss it this year, that we’re not going to be able to celebrate the way that we’ve done, let’s figure out a way that we can still connect.’”

She says if you’re worried about the health of your loved ones, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Akers suggests planning ahead on when you’ll connect and set expectations for when you will meet up or chat on the phone.

“Learn to say no,” she said. “Friends and family will understand if your usual family gathering makes you feel uncomfortable this year.”

She suggests it might also be helpful to watch your wallet. Before you do your gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend, then stick to your budget to mitigate financial stresses around the holidays.

Akers says even if you’ve never tried it before, meditation or breathing exercises can lessen the physical effects of anxiety. She also says to try not to abandon healthy habits.

“Even if you are away from home, don’t forget to eat healthy portions, get plenty of sleep, get outside to exercise each day, and don’t go overboard on alcohol,” she said.

Finally, Akers suggests seeking professional help if you need it. Hillside recently expanded its services to Savannah and Macon to offer intensive in-home and virtual outpatient therapy.

For more information about Hillside’s services in Savannah and the Lowcountry, CLICK HERE.

You can reach Hillside’s 24-hour hotline at (404) 875-4551. For immediate help, call the Georgia Crisis & Access Line (800) 715-4225.

Clients also receive weekly individual and family therapy, psychiatric consultation and medication management. Participants have access to 24/7 crisis calls and coaching. For more information on Hillside’s services, visit their website.

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