Diane Gramann, LAPSW, ACSW, received her Bachelor of Social Work Degree in Community Organization from East Carolina University and her Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in the area of Mental Health.

Diane has been a licensed Masters level social worker in the state of Tennessee since 1981. She served as Executive Director for the Alzheimer’s Association as well as the Community Resource Center from 1991 until she joined the Mental Health Association (now Mental Health America of Middle Tennessee) as Manager of Program Services in 2010.

She now serves on the Board of Directors of the Council on Aging and is also a member of CABLE, NASW and the Nashville Psychotherapy Institute.

Diane lives in Franklin with her husband, Harry and their two rescue dogs and has a married daughter, Beth who is an attorney for Atlanta Legal Aid.

For some, it is the most wonderful time of the year. For others, it’s the worst.

The holiday season, which begins for most Americans with Thanksgiving and continues through New Year’s Day, often includes unwelcome guests, stress, and depression. And it’s no wonder. Sometimes the holidays can be difficult because they don’t measure up to our high expectations of fun, family, and merriment. So much for peace and joy!!!!!

Actually, with some practical tips, you can minimize the stress and depression that often accompany the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would.

Q: How can I minimize stress during the holidays?

Recognize holiday triggers so you can disarm them before they lead to a meltdown.

Relationships. Relationships can cause turmoil; conflict and stress at any time and boy are they higher during the holidays!!!!
Finances. With the added expenses of gifts, travel, food and entertainment, the holidays can put a strain on your budget. Over spending now can mean financial worries for months.
Physical demands. Even die-hard holiday enthusiasts may find that the extra shopping and socializing can leave them wiped out. Exhaustion increases your stress which is a vicious cycle. Exercise and sleep which is a good antidote for stress and fatigue may take a back seat to chores and errands. Burning the wick at both ends makes you more susceptible to colds and other unwelcome guests.
Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you to handle everything you need to do. Take a walk, listen to music, and find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.

Q: Sometimes I get depressed at this time of year – what are some ways to avoid that holiday slump?

Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious, or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time is another good way to reach out.
Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. If your children cannot come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together.
Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
Stick to a budget. Before you go shopping, decide how much you are going to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Try alternatives: Donate to a charity, give homemade gifts or start a family gift exchange.
Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends, and other activities. Plan menus and have shopping lists ready.
Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If you can’t say no, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for lost time.
Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free for all. Overindulgence now only adds to the blues later. Have healthy snacks before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese, or drinks. Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.
Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts you may feel yourself feeling sad or anxious for long periods of time. If this persists you may want to talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Q: How can I help my friend deal with her first holiday after the loss of her loved one?

Acknowledge their feelings. If someone close has recently died or they can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express feelings. You can’t force them to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
Offer practical comfort. A simple expression of sorrow and taking time to listen will allow her to share feelings of loss and memories. Babysitting, cooking and running errands are all ways to help someone who is in the midst of grieving.
Be patient. Remember that it can take a long time to recover from a major loss. Make yourself available to talk. People sometimes need permission to keep, change, or discard traditions that included loved ones who have died. Don’t be afraid to talk about how much she misses him/her.
Encourage professional help when necessary. Don’t hesitate to recommend professional help when you feel someone is experiencing too much pain to cope alone.

For more information, contact the
Mental Health America of Middle Tennessee: