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“Merry Christmas,” “Happy Holidays,” “Wonderful to see you,” “Let’s not let so much time pass before we see each other.” These wonderful holiday greetings are usually accompanied by an acquaintance handshake, a friendly, quick hug, or the all-time best, a bear hug embrace.

They’re all part of a culture of “connecting.”

Verbal and physical connecting add to our general mental health, but attacking the holiday blues requires a bit more.

In this two-part series, we will share some powerful ideas on how to curb the holiday blues.

Loneliness can be toxic. And then add in feelings of being overwhelmed with too many expectations or trying to find a way to participate in the season of joy and celebration when you just don’t feel like doing anything. Sadness, self-reflection and anxiety are the holiday norm for too many.

Enter the power of volunteerism in America.

Rosemary Fornshell, president of the ancillary at St Luke’s Magic Valley, shared some great insight into the power of volunteerism: “Volunteerism is an American value. In fact, we are a nation of volunteers.”

Volunteers give of themselves in terms of work and time. They get back a sense of belonging and worth and so much more. Just ask a volunteer and they will tell you they get more than they give.

Volunteers in the United States are 63 million strong and hold up the foundation of civil society. They help their neighbors, serve their communities and provide their expertise. No matter the kind of volunteer work, they are contributing in invaluable ways.

Luke Smith, at the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Primary Counseling, gives these ways to cope with loneliness over the holidays:

1) Plan ahead and reach out. If this is your first holiday away from home, in a new city, or alone for the first time, look for events and schedule in advance to attend. It gives you something to look forward to.

2) If there are days that may be especially difficult for you, plan a check-in with friends and family. Create a new holiday norm.

3) Look for ways to volunteer during the holidays.

Lastly, do a quick internet search: Volunteers needed in the Magic Valley. WOW!

Ideas include: People for Pets, Office on Aging, shut-ins, or think about the nursing homes with patients who may not have any local family. You can do it and enrich your life and theirs.

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Day Egusquiza is the president and founder of the Patient Financial Navigator Foundation Inc. — an Idaho-based family foundation. For more information, call 208-423-9036 or go to pfnfinc.com. Do you have a topic for Healthcare Buzz? Please share at daylee1@mindspring.com.

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