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Kieri L. Olmstead, MS

It is that time of year again when your favorite radio station has been hijacked and the stores are bursting with red and green glitter. There are big fat men with beards and red suits all over the place and everyone seems to be in a frenzy of shopping, party planning and traveling. This time of year brings so much joy for a lot of people around the world. This is also the time of year that I start to come to work in comfy clothes, I settle into my chair and steel my heart for the outpouring of tears, pain, loneliness and heartache that will walk into my office.

You see, this time of year, for many, doesn’t mean warm holiday get-togethers with the family, presents under a brightly lit tree or a basket of freshly baked goodies by the menorah. This time of year, quite frequently, means cold, lonely living rooms, less food in the cupboard, painful memories, uncomfortable get-togethers with people who are supposed to be family but are abusers or harmful people in their lives. This time of year means less sunlight, which also means vitamin deficiencies that lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), it means increased risk of the flu, pneumonia, and bronchitis. It means more bills and less income. Quite frankly, this time of year, for so many, equals STRESS.

Ok, Kieri, we hear you, so, what can we do about it? Well, if you are one of these people you can start by not feeling alone and not being silent. You can reach out to a loved one and tell them how you feel. You can present your case for laying off the Christmas lights and not continuing to keep the oven on with all the baked goods. You can give yourself permission to not go to that family meal that always ends in yelling and tears. You can come to Northland Family Care and schedule an appointment with me, and we can talk through all the stress that you’re experiencing. You could even come and see me at my Westport office if you want to. The point is - you must take some sort of action. Seek help, seek connection, seek to be heard.

If you are someone who absolutely loves the holidays and wants to bask in all the red, green and blue glittery glory that it comes with – do that AND be conscious that others may not want to join you there. Remember that what the holidays are truly about is showing those in our lives that we love them dearly. David Augsburger once said, “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” Hear your loved ones who are struggling this time of year. See the elderly person in your church who has no family close and just show up for them. You don’t need a Pinterest-worthy pie, or cookies in tow – they just need connection with a human being. Be the human who shows up to connect. Be the human who sees the pain, asks nothing of it, and tends to the wounded. Then, when you struggle with how much isn’t in your control, seek connection, seek help, and seek to be heard.

Whether you are a Grinch or a Griswald, remember that the holidays are really about connection. So seek to connect with all of those in your life that you hold dear. If you have lost the ones in your life that you want around during this season, seek out new connections. Find a support group that helps those with loved ones who have left, find a local church to get involved with, go to a quilting group or a cooking class. If you aren’t quite ready to face the crowds, make an appointment with a therapist. We are here and ready to listen when you are ready to talk.

Kieri Olmstead is a Marriage and Family Therapist who owns her own private practice in Westport called Simple Empathy. She is at Northland Family Care on Monday mornings and all day Thursdays to assist in the care of our patients with their mental health and emotional well-being needs. You can check out her website here: or call our office to make an appointment with her at Northland Family Care.