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Holiday safety means securing your peace of mind


Holiday safety means securing your peace of mind


Icon_PoliceI normally take Sgt. Jennifer Ross’ holiday safety tips and put my own little whimsical spin on them, but she said something this week that hit home with me.

The holidays, particularly Christmas, are our yearly emotional housekeeping. We honor our social contracts, recognizing the relationships we have with our families, our friends and even our coworkers. It’s also a time for self-evaluation and inventory. You stack your accomplishments in one column, your disappointments and regrets in another.  December, with its onset of cold and somber gray skies, can press down on you like a weight.

Interestingly, suicide rates don’t spike around Christmas, a phenomenon that’s widely assumed. The Centers for Disease Control, which is just down the road from Decatur, reports that the opposite is actually true: suicide rates are at their lowest point in December.

That’s good to know, even if it’s not particularly comforting. We’ve all experienced depression at some level. Last year around this time, one of my best friends in the world attempted suicide. It was a frightening experience but an important reminder. Sometimes you don’t really know what the people in your life are going through, even if you think you do.

For Ross, the holidays are a reminder of her own personal pain.

“I lost my dad to cancer in 2000 and his birthday is two days before Christmas,” she said in her weekly update. “I spent many years trying to stay busy enough to forget how much I still miss him, especially around the holidays. That strategy only works for so long before you feel even worse.”

Ross said mental health isn’t a “traditional” holiday topic, but it can lead to episodes that require a response from police officers. Here are her tips on chinning up, cheering up and getting through the holidays with your peace of mind intact(ish):

– Be reasonable with your schedule and do not overbook yourself into a state of exhaustion. It can make you grouchy and stressed out and where is the cheer in that?

– Plan ahead so you are not overwhelmed but relax and go with the flow when things don’t necessarily work out as planned.

– Give yourself the gift of some “me time”. It can be exercise, meditation, massage, reading or a good nap. Take time out to do what makes you feel better and reduces your stress.

– If you are feeling lonely or isolated, reach out for support and companionship. Check out community, spiritual and social events or volunteer your time. You can lift your spirits helping others while building new relationships along the way.

– If you find yourself overcome with feelings of sadness, anxiety or depression, seek professional help. Reach out to your doctor, a counselor or a crisis hotline. If you need emergency assistance, please call 911.

Thanks to Sgt. Ross for raising our awareness about mental illness. There’s no shame in it. Sometimes, you feel feels. It’s better to deal with them and put them in their proper place before they get the better of you.