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The gift of good mental health

With the 2014 holiday season right around the corner, many of us are busy perfecting recipes, preparing for guests, and searching for the ideal gifts for family and friends. For many Idahoans, the holiday season is a time of renewing cherished traditions and creating special memories with loved ones. For others, keeping up with the hectic pace of social gatherings, shopping, family, and work obligations can place a serious strain on their mental health and well-being, leaving them feeling worn down and overwhelmed.

But holiday burnout doesn’t need to be the norm. In fact, the tools to help create a happy and fulfilling holiday season are available to everyone and take just a bit of extra effort to use. This year, try using the holidays as the time to adopt some simple strategies that will allow you to enjoy what matters most during this season: time spent with family and friends.

The first thing to do is maintain your regular eating, exercising, and sleeping habits. Enjoying holiday festivities shouldn’t require a departure from your typical healthy habits; avoid overindulging in food, alcohol, or other substances that are detrimental to your well-being.

Second, keep your priorities in line and plan ahead. Forward thinking allows you to manage expectations and set boundaries. Think about what you really want and need to do this holiday season, and don’t allow social expectations to pressure you into overspending or spreading yourself too thin. It’s okay to say “no” if you’re feeling like you have too much on your plate.

If you do find yourself feeling overwhelmed – and it happens to all of us – remember to ask for help. There is no shame in seeking assistance, and Optum Idaho and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare offer a variety of free and easy-to-access resources for individuals, families, and children. For example, the 2-1-1 Idaho CareLine is a statewide community information and referral source to programs that offer free or low-cost health and human services or social services. Members of the Idaho Behavioral Health Plan have additional resources that can be found at

In the midst of a hectic holiday season, it’s easy to lose focus on what is truly important during this time of year: quality time. The holidays, no matter what you celebrate, are about spending time with the people whom you care about and enjoying what you have. Remember to take care of yourself this holiday season and help those who need a little more support this time of year.

Dr. Dennis Woody is clinical director for Optum Idaho. He has more than 30 years of mental health experience. Ross Edmunds is Administrator of the Division of Behavioral Health at Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.


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