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FOR YOUR HEALTH: Tips for taking care of mental health and family at the holidays

Turning Point Coalition member

No one would deny that these are incredibly difficult times. It’s more important than ever to take care of the people in our lives, and doing so can actually prevent substance misuse.
People with mental health disorders are often more likely to develop substance use disorders. So, how can you help them?

Watch for warnings signs in your loved ones over the holidays (from Prevention Action Alliance):
* Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
* Looking for a way to kill oneself
* Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
* Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
* Talking about being a burden to others
* Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
* Acting anxious or agitated
* Behaving recklessly
* Sleeping too little or too much
* Withdrawing or feeling isolated
* Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
* Displaying extreme mood swings
If you or someone you know is showing the above symptoms, encourage them to seek professional help. Call 911 if they are suicidal.

Prevention Action Alliance suggests the following activities to boost mental health:
* Take a walk or a bike ride with your children
* Pop some popcorn and snuggle up on the couch to enjoy Netflix
* Get crafty
* Try a new recipe with your children
* Have a family game night
* Have everyone grab their favorite book and spend time relaxing together
Not only should we be practicing self-care, but it’s also vital that we teach these tactics to our children. It’s a difficult time for them, too, and this could be a great training ground for helping them navigate other challenges in their future.

Here are a few tips on ways you and your kids can practice self-care together:
* Keep a consistent routine, even during vacation time
* Stay physically distant but socially connected to friends and extended family
* Eat well, hydrate, and exercise
* Find a way to laugh every day
* Get enough sleep
* Practice mindfulness and meditation using YouTube or self-care apps
* Start a new hobby
* Do something kind for someone else
In addition, this might be a good time to talk to your teens about your family’ mental health history. According to the Addiction Policy Forum, genetics account for half of a person’s likelihood of developing a substance use disorder. That is why it’s important for your children to know their genetic predispositions. Telling them that someone in your family has or had a substance use disorder can empower them to make wise decisions.

Kristie Skaggs is a Coalition prevention specialist and submitted this article on behalf of Turning Point Coalition.

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