Health & Wellness

When Holiday Stress is Too Much to Handle, Westfield Residents are Not Alone

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Service projects are part of the Imagine program both for the children in its support groups and the members of its Youth Advisory Council (iYAC). Here,  iYAC members Emma Klein and Kaila Starita participate in The Little Shoebox Project, collecting items and assembling 35 shoeboxes for children, teens and adults affected by Hurricane Sandy. “Being of service to others helps build resiliency and can decrease some of the stress people who are grieving may be feeling at the holidays and throughout the year. It increases feelings of self-esteem and can provide a sense of purpose and control when grievers are feeling most vulnerable and alone,” said Robinson. Credits: Imagine
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WESTFIELD, NJ—The holiday season can be a joyous time of year. But for many it’s also a time when feelings of stress and depression can be amplified, which in extreme cases can lead to crisis. Many of us were reminded of this issue earlier this week as we learned about the tragic suicide/homicide of a mother and her young son in the neighboring town of Scotch Plains.

“Most of us are familiar with what is known as the ‘holiday blues’—sometimes referred to as ‘the winter blues’—which are characterized by feelings of sadness, loneliness, depression and anxiety during the holiday season,” said Terri DiMatteo, LPC and founder of Open Door Therapy in Westfield.

With recent events including Superstorm Sandy, the tragedy in Newtown, CT, and now this tragedy in Scotch Plains, this year all of us are feeling some anxiety or depression, according to DiMatteo, “as it has delivered so much for us to collectively cope with.”

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In addition, holidays can be difficult time for those experiencing grief.

"Many people experience intense and polarizing feelings at the same time. It can be confusing and unsettling to feel happy and/or joyous and deeply sad and lonely simultaneously," said Mandi Zucker, program director for Imagine, a Center for Coping with Loss, in Westfield. "Allowing yourself permission to let the feelings come as they do relieves some of the guilt and anger many people experience during the holidays."

Imagine is offering phone support and one-on-one in-person support for individuals and families who are struggling with feelings of grief and loss.

"For many people, the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School have triggered grief and painful feelings from earlier losses in their own lives with which they may still be struggling. Add to that the trauma for many of Hurricane Sandy, and the pressure of the holidays, and many people are simply having a difficult time coping,” said Mary Robinson, Executive Director.  “Part of our mission is foster resiliency for people coping with loss. Reaching out for help and support is actually a sign of resiliency and a way to grow more resilient.”

“If you're feeling down around the holidays or you know someone who has suffered a loss and seems withdrawn, don't suffer in silence—there is help out there,” added Dasha Hinton, LPC, of Resolve Community Counseling in Scotch Plains, a non-profit organization that provides counseling and psychotherapy services at a reduced rate.

For immediate help at any time, CONTACT We Care, a Westfield-based award-winning crisis hotline serving New Jersey, recently expanded its hours of operation to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Callers can reach CONTACT by dialing 908-232-2880 or texting “CWC” to 839863. All calls and texts are anonymous and confidential.

Additional reporting by Providence Manning.

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