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Navigating Winter Blues and Prioritizing Mental Health in 2024

By Billy Montgomery As the new year hits, a collective sigh permeates through the American population, accompanied by a recognized decline in mental health.  A 2021 survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness revealed that three out of five Americans feel the adverse effects of winter on their mental well-being. Loaded with an array of emotional challenges ranging from holiday highs and lows to the inherent uncertainties of the new year, these aspects contribute to a unique set of mental health struggles.   Contrary to the misconception that suicides peak during this season, the winter months usher in their unique challenges, compounded by the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the border crisis, and ongoing global conflicts.  Entering 2024, mental health professionals like associate marriage and family therapist Sheri Murray, stress the critical need to prioritize mental well-being in the face of these complex challenges.

The Mind-Body Connection

Murray does her work through Central Counseling Services, which has services in Riverside and Murrieta, CA.  An advocate for mental well-being, Murray views her work through a holistic lens, recognizing the profound impact of mental states on physical health. “My work centers around avoiding getting sick. It all starts from the mind,” Murray said. She added that stress and depression, when left unaddressed, can manifest physically, contributing to conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even eating disorders. Murray underscores the importance of being mindful of how cognitive processes profoundly impact the body, making mental health awareness a cornerstone of overall well-being.

Supporting Others Through Grief

Dealing with grief during the winter months demands a nuanced approach. Murray advises recognizing that individuals facing grief are navigating a new reality and how important honest communication and genuine understanding are when supporting others through grief.

“Meet them right where they are without expecting anything back,” she said. “Being present without expecting a specific response allows individuals the space to process their emotions authentically.”

Negative Influences: The Impact of Social Media

Murray highlights the negative impact of social media on mental health stating that constant exposure to mixed emotions on these platforms can adversely affect the psyche, leading to mental distress. “Our brains are not designed to be hijacked like that,” Murray said.  “Many statements on social media are negative.  We have to be aware of things that trigger (trauma).” To combat this, she warns against the potential harm caused by excessive exposure to negative content, emphasizing the importance of monitoring one's digital environment for a more positive mental space.

Self-Awareness, Self-Compassion, and Seeking Support

Drawing on her expertise, Murray emphasizes the pivotal role of self-awareness and self-compassion in maintaining mental well-being. Recognizing one's emotional state and extending compassion to oneself during challenging times are vital components of resilience. Murray also advocates for seeking professional support when needed, emphasizing the value of therapy and counseling in navigating complex emotions.

Recognizing Internal Suffering: A Checklist

Murray provides a checklist to identify signs of internal suffering, whether in oneself or others. These telltale signs include isolation, easy irritability, impulsivity, rapid changes in eating habits, neglect of personal hygiene, excessive absenteeism from school or work, and excessive sleeping.  According to Murray, recognizing these signs is crucial for addressing internal suffering and seeking the necessary support.

Entering the new year will require navigating the winter blues and prioritizing mental. Murray urges people to foster self-awareness, have compassion, and seek professional support when needed.  With these intentions, individuals can collectively overcome the complexities of the season and face the new year with resilience, understanding, and a commitment to mental well-being.

Photos by Billy Montgomery Heart of Hollywood Contributor Billy Montgomery

Billy Montgomery stands as a seasoned photojournalist, accomplished writer, and adept digital content producer with a rich and diverse portfolio. His extensive experience in media production has taken him to illustrious cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, and Atlanta, where he has successfully crafted compelling photography, videography, and podcasts for a diverse clientele.

Beyond his role as a media producer, Montgomery is committed to education, imparting his knowledge through classes and workshops focused on media literacy and production for both youth and adults. He believes in the transformative power of media education to empower individuals in navigating the ever-evolving landscape of digital content creation.

In the realm of writing, Montgomery champions innovative thinking as a cornerstone of journalism. His perspective emphasizes the importance of embracing diverse viewpoints, acknowledging that true growth comes from listening to a chorus of voices rather than the echo of one's own. Living by the motto, “We don’t grow by listening to our own voice,” Montgomery encourages a dynamic and inclusive approach to storytelling that reflects the richness and complexity of the world we inhabit.

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30 déc. 2023
Noté 5 étoiles sur 5.

Eloquently written, as you managed to capture my mission as a mental health professional. There is so much more to come, and it‘s been awesome working with you.


Tammy  Reese
Tammy Reese
30 déc. 2023
Noté 5 étoiles sur 5.

Powerful article

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