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Monarch experts share ways to cope with grief and stress during the holidays

For many, the holiday season is a happy and exciting time. But for those who have suffered the loss of a loved one, experienced family conflict, job loss or financial stress, this time of year can be less than jolly.

While experts say stress and grief can be normal reactions during the holidays, learning to cope can help people manage their feelings and help them to enjoy the holidays. Monarch’s Senior Clinical Director Ben Millsap, MSW, LCSW, LCAS, CCS, and Jim Southern, MA, M.Ed. LPC, LPCS, a clinical director at Monarch, have provided the following general tips and suggestions to help reduce stress during this festive season – and all year long:

  • Rest. Regardless of the excitement, guests and travel, make an effort to get plenty of rest. Lack of sleep can quickly
    increase stress levels.
  • Maintain routines.  We often do things at certain times or certain ways because it is comforting.  When we travel or entertain, this can disrupt routines.  When and wherever possible, keep those routines, which can be calming.
  • Watch what you eat. Usually there is a lot to eat during the holidays, but it is important to continue to eat in a balanced fashion.  Loading up on too many holiday sweet treats, full of carbohydrates and sugars, can throw your system and moods out of balance.
  • Keep a healthy perspective. Guests will leave, messes will be cleaned and, generally, heightened feelings and      emotions during the holidays will pass. Remember normalcy as you know it will eventually return.
  • Laugh. When stressed in general, and especially during the holidays, remember to smile or laugh. Either can helpto reduce stress. Engage in activities that brighten your mood.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff! It’s a cliché, but meaningful.  Focus on the big picture and the little things don’t seem to pile up so fast.
  • Give back.  If the holidays are a difficult time, helping others can improve feelings and mood.  There are many
    Jim Southern-web
    opportunities this time of year to support someone else in need. It may just help you feel better, too.
  • Start new traditions. If a routine has been altered due to a significant change – positive or negative – start a new custom that can help bring new meaning.
  • Find time for yourself. Carve out some “me” time! Take 10 minutes to think, breathe, listen to music, take a walk, etc. Time for yourself can help you center yourself and feel better.

Southern said, in addition to the above suggestions, families should not be afraid to celebrate memories of lost loved ones during the holidays.

“Take time to remember the good times. Others may want to share a special thought or two about a lost family member or friend,” Southern explained. “Listen and, if comfortable, join the conversation.”

Millsap and Southern encourage those who desire support, to seek the counsel of a professional. Monarch provides group therapy, counseling for individuals, couples and families in need of confidential counseling or support. Monarch’s Open Access Model offers same day appointments for first time visitors through the agency’s walk-in clinics. For more information about Monarch’s services or to make an appointment, please call (866) 272-7826.

Established in 1958, Monarch provides support statewide to thousands of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness and substance abuse challenges from more than 50 North Carolina counties. Monarch is nationally accredited by The Council on Quality and Leadership and is CABHA certified. The agency is an affiliate chapter of The Arc of North Carolina and The Arc of the United States. To learn more about how Monarch is “Helping Dreams Take Flight” for people living in our communities, please call (800) 230-7525.                                                                                                 ###

Media contact: Natasha A. Suber, (704) 986-1582 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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