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Tis' The Season for Holiday Stress


Managing our mental health during the holidays can be challenging – there is so much to do, attend and plan. This can leave folks feeling overwhelmed, anxious, stressed and depressed. HPR’s Ku?uwehi Hiraishi filed this report.

End of the year work tasks, holiday parties, and Christmas gifts.These are just some of the stressors this time of year. Psychologist Aukahi Austin Seabury says there are just more expectations during the holidays.

“And the bottom line is that stress is stress and so even if its happy stress, wonderful stress, I have to make my special cookies, whatever, that those layers of stress are enhanced at this time,” says Seabury.

While it can be a joyous occasion for those with a strong support system of friends and family, for people where that is not the case…

“It is a very lonely time. And even for folks who are, who have wonderful families around them but struggle with mental illness,” says Seabury, “The joy can feel so incongruous than what you’re feeling on the inside and so you even feel further separated from others.”

Seabury was recently honored as a community champion of mental health in Hawai’i by HMSA and Ka Waiwai Collective. She’s dedicated her career to improving access to behavioral health care in Hawai’i’s rural communities.

“There just aren’t enough especially in our rural communities on all the islands, but anywhere and mostly where Hawaiians reside,” says Seabury, “There are insufficient health services period. There just aren’t enough providers, and there certainty aren’t enough culturally-trained providers.”

She and her team at the non-profit organization I Ola Lahui have trained more than 65 psychologists over the past 11 years, placing them in rural communities on six different islands.  But she says there’s only so much one psychologist can do. Mental health care requires daily practice she says.

“The idea that we absorb stress all day long. So we start here. Wake up in the morning, happy. Yawn. And then all day we pick up stress. Oh, I’m late for work. Oh this, this. Oh, big thing due. Up, up, up, up, up,” says Seabury, “And then we get home and we say self-care. I have to learn how to deeply relax and let all of that go so that I can suddenly, at the height of my stress, fall asleep peacefully and get eight hours of restful sleep.”

Not gonna happen. Self-care she says means letting go of stress before it builds up throughout the day and potentially throughout the year.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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