COURT HOUSE – While the upcoming holidays can be a warm, fun-filled time for many, those suffering from loneliness, in recovery or managing grief after the loss of a loved one may not be looking forward to them, and could be facing the holidays with anxiety.
The good thing for county residents, according to Kathryn Gibson, director of recovery services, Cape Assist, is that there are "so many places to get help" that no one should be "afraid to ask.
"Even if you don't have insurance, organizations usually have a funding source that can help pay for the services you need," she said. "Don't be afraid to ask for professional help. You may need to vent or need help coping with everything associated with the holidays. There are so many agencies within five to 10 minutes of nearly everyone in Cape May County that if you are struggling, there's help."
While some may look forward to the holidays as "great times to be with family and friends," Gibson noted that others may struggle and be stressed about spending more time than usual with family.
Those in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction also need plans to address "triggers" so they don't relapse. For others, spending the first holiday without a loved one can be painful.
"My first suggestion is to prioritize what's important to you," Gibson said. "You don't have to go to every event you are invited to. Set healthy boundaries. Try to keep within moderation."
Because the holidays are often a time when people eat more fatty foods or carbohydrates and drink more alcohol, Gibson suggested trying to stay within moderation to keep from gaining weight.
"Exercise, get out in the sun," she suggested. "Sometimes taking a walk can give you a break from all the stress and improve your mood. Oftentimes, we don't take the time to consider our own health needs. You need to put your own personal health at the top of your list."
Sometimes people feel more isolated during the holidays, Gibson said. "Sometimes you see your family more during the holidays than all year," she added. "That can cause more stress.
"If you are in early recovery, you may be dealing with broken relationships that are starting over," she added. "You're just starting to regain trust and everything can be overwhelming. There's a lot of planning that needs to happen."
Because people "don't recover alone," Gibson suggested those struggling reach out to their church (or faith community), neighbors, support network or attend their 12-Step meetings for help.
"You have to look at decreasing your trigger and minimizing your high-risk factors, especially if you are in recovery," she said. "Know what support you need so you aren't isolated. Plan what you need to do if things get too stressful for you.
"Listen to music, read a book," she added. "Don't be afraid to ask for help."
If you are feeling "blue," the First United Methodist Church, 1 Church St., Court House, will hold a service 4 p.m. Dec. 16. This is the third year the church is sponsoring the "Blue Service," according to its pastor, to help people "acknowledge their feelings, offer them up to God, and receive the gift of hope.
"The gift of hope is what the Christmas story is all about," Pastor Doug Spencer said. "We try to pray together so people realize they are not alone. God loves and cares for them, and we hope they can find strength being together."
Although Spencer said the "Blue Service" doesn't usually have a large turnout, "if one person finds hope and peace and realizes they are not alone," he is satisfied.
"We light candles for our lost loved ones, lost jobs or health, or lost dreams and hope," the pastor added. "We name those things that make us feel blue and offer them to God so we can be free to worship and celebrate. You can acknowledge peace and joy while still in the midst of your own loneliness."
To contact Karen Knight, email email@example.com.