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Battling the Holiday Blues: How to Help Wellness Counselling Clients Navigate the Holiday Season

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While the holidays are known for being a time of great cheer, they can often evoke the opposite in clients. In fact, for many, the holidays can exacerbate feelings of loneliness, stress, and sadness. Research has found that there is indeed “an increase in certain types of psychopathology during the holiday, such as worsening of mood and alcohol-related fatalities.” (Sansone, R. A., MD, & Sansone, L. A., MD., 2011). Fortunately, other myths about the “holiday blues”—such as the myth that suicide rates increase—have recently been dispelled (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013).

For wellness counselling professionals, the holiday season can present a time during which particular care ought to be taken to assist clients. Here are some approaches that can be taken to preserve wellness at this critical time of year.

Physical Wellness is Especially Important

One factor that can make the holiday season more difficult is related to lifestyle changes that occur in winter. For example, a study of female participants in the southeastern United States found that physical activity decreased dramatically during the winter months (Buchowski, M. S., Choi, L., Majchrzak, K. M., Acra, S., Matthews, C. E., & Chen, K. Y., 2009). Furthermore, some experts claim that “The urge to maintain body fat is even stronger in winter when food in the natural world is scarce,” leading to a seasonal habit of overeating (University of Exeter., 2016, January 6).

Professional Wellness Counsellors know well that being in a state of physical health and wellness can have dramatic positive effects on other dimensions and are well trained to help their clients maintain healthy habits. Making an extra effort to help clients stay active and eat healthy around the holidays could be an important tool for helping clients feel their best during this time of year.

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Diet and exercise could have an important impact in helping clients prevent the holiday blues

Helping Clients Overcome Isolation Is an Important Task Around the Holidays

Though factors relating to physical health may be contributors to wellness during the holidays, they are not considered to be the main culprits behind holiday sadness. Rather, “studies have confirmed that the primary reason for holiday depression is belief in the myth that everyone else is having a good time and engaged in loving family relationships” (University Health News., 2015, January 5). Unsurprisingly, this time of year is known to be particularly difficult for individuals who are far from loved ones, who have recently lost a close relative or friend, or who have complicated or few close relationships.

In your professional wellness counsellor career, some of the most powerful tools you can provide to an individual feeling isolated around the holidays are those related to emotional wellness. Teaching a client how to identify and take ownership of feelings, to examine family dynamics or difficulties, and to identify their own needs, can be greatly beneficial in helping them discover emotional clarity and create stronger relationships during this time.

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Wellness counsellors can help clients gain clarity about negative feelings they have around the holidays

Help Clients Discover Greater Spiritual Wellness and a Fresh Start

The winter holidays, though meant to be a fun time, can serve for some as an uncomfortable reminder of accomplishments unfulfilled during the rest of the year. Though some gain renewed determination to find success with their professional goals and personal ambitions with the coming of the new year, others find that looking back brings only feelings of regret or sadness (Doheny, K., n.d.).

One potential avenue to overcoming these kinds of feelings can be found in pursuing or renewing a spiritual connection. According to research from the Public Religion Research Institute, there is a strong correlation between spirituality and life satisfaction. In fact, it found that “More than six in ten (61%) spiritual but not religious Americans and seven in ten (70%) spiritual and religious Americans are very or completely satisfied with their lives overall” (Cox, D., Ph.D., & Jones, R. P., Ph.D., 2017, November 06). In discovering a connection to a power or idea greater than oneself, it may be possible for unsatisfied clients to find greater happiness.

Today, the word spiritual does not necessarily connote organized religion, but rather analysis of and engagement with significant beliefs and world views. Consequently, wellness counsellors trained in helping others discover spiritual wellness may help clients engage in activities like meditation, the cultivation of peace and gratitude, or to discover ways to help others in need. By helping clients connect with their spirituality, you may be able to assist them to develop the sense of peace and acceptance they crave around the holiday season.

Would you like to someday spread holiday cheer to those who need it most?

Contact Rhodes Wellness College to learn about our wellness counsellor diploma in Vancouver!