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Even at Christmas, it’s okay to not be okay

ALPENA, Mich. — If you hear the radio tell it, the winter holidays are a time of joy. But for many people, Christmastime can bring a great deal of pressure.

Mary Schalk of the Alpena Partners in Suicide Prevention said a lot of holiday stress comes from the gap between expectation and reality.

We’re surrounded by songs, movies, and commercials featuring the perfect Christmas when our own lives are somewhat less glamorous.

“We want to have the perfect meal. We want to have the perfect decorations. We want to find the perfect present. And we want to bring everyone for a perfect time. But perfection isn’t something we need to strive for.”

Schalk told WBKB the pandemic adds even more stress, with families making tough decisions about whether or not to see relatives this year.

She added that increased suicides around Christmas are mostly urban legend. Still, the holiday’s impact on mental health is very real.

Talking to a close friend or family member can make a big difference, even if it’s just to vent.

“To be able to listen, for the purpose of understanding somebody, not to jump in and try to fix or to solve. Sometimes the most important thing we can do is just allow somebody to speak and be heard.”

And Schalk said that’s the big thing: communication. Talk with friends and family and be honest about your feelings. If it seems like they’re stressed out or bothered by something, ask to listen.

Finally, she says think about what’s most realistic for your family this Christmas, and focus on that instead of keeping up with the Joneses.