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Starting the New Year off on a healthy, happy note

By Norma Wood

While there’s anecdotal evidence to suggest stress increases during the holidays, research doesn’t show a rise in the holiday blues or depression around the holidays.

However, “holiday let down” is more common. After the holiday season, some people may feel down because expectations weren’t met or they’re sad the holiday season has passed.

Our neighbors in need experience holiday let down, too. During the holidays, there is a lot of support available to those who need assistance. Generous donors and volunteers with local nonprofit organizations provide meals and gifts to individuals and families during the holidays.

The St. Petersburg Free Clinic Health Center provides free medical services for thousands of low-income, uninsured adults in Pinellas County. Volunteer mental health therapists can provide medication management and counseling services to those who are experiencing holiday let down or feelings of anxiety or depression anytime throughout the year.

Often times, patients experience these feelings as a result of the high socioeconomic burden they face. They may be worried about how they’re going to pay their bills this month or provide enough food for their families. Their anxiety is lessened once they receive help from the Free Clinic’s other services like the We Help Food Pantry or its bill pay assistance.

Others may seek counseling to deal with grief from a loss – loss of a loved one, a job, or even their home. Volunteer medical professionals at the Health Center work with patients to develop coping skills and how to adjust to life changes

As the New Year begins and new resolutions are made, take steps to ensure you start on a healthy and happy path that can last all year long

Develop healthy coping skills. No doubt there will be bumps throughout the year, so it’s important to develop healthy coping skills to deal with life’s stressors. Think about what has worked for you in the past or activities that make you happy and make time for them. It could be little things like watching the sunset at the beach, taking your dog for a walk or drawing a bubble bath for yourself.

Manage expectations. It’s important to be patient and set reasonable expectations. Understand that things might not change overnight. For example, if your resolution is to lose weight, don’t expect that you’ll reach your goal in a few weeks. It takes time, dedication and patience.

Set small, short-term goals. It’s great to have long-term goals, but it’s just as important to set small goals that help you work toward your long-term goal. Think about what you can do this week to reach your long-term goal. Using weight loss as an example, set a smaller goal to work out an extra 30 minutes this week or make a more nutritious choice like eliminating soda. Small wins lead to more motivation and commitment toward your long-term goal.

Understand you may not always have control. Sometimes you can’t control what life throws at you, and that is ok. What you can control is how you react to a challenge and your own behavior moving forward.

Know when to seek help from others. There is no shame in asking for help, whether from a professional or a personal confidant. But it’s important to recognize when something is bigger than you can handle alone.

The St. Petersburg Free Clinic provides medication management and mental health counseling to low-income, uninsured patients on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Appointments are required. Adults ages 18-64 years old without medical insurance can call 727.327.0333 to request an appointment. No referral is necessary. Patients must reside in Pinellas County.

Last year, the nonprofit provided 9,000 basic health and wellness services – from health screenings to general care to specialty care – for free. More than 450 volunteers, including many medical professionals, donate their time to the Free Clinic each month.

Norma Wood, ARNP, is a licensed mental health nurse practitioner. The St. Petersburg Free Clinic is a multi-service, independent, not-for-profit human services agency providing neighbors in need assistance with food, shelter and health care since 1970. Find out more about St. Petersburg Free Clinic’s programs and eligibility at www.StPetersburgFreeClinic.org.