Hamilton Network is helping Flint residents beat the holiday blues with resources and support

FLINT, Michigan — For some, the holiday season is neither shiny and bright nor a calm, silent night. The wintertime blues are real and can be a chaotic, isolating time for many people. Seasonal depression can impact not only mental health but physical health as well. Hamilton Community Health Network has a variety of resources and services available to the Flint community to help combat the holiday blues. 

Stacy Sawyer, Hamilton's Director of Communications and Marketing, says the North Pointe Clinic is hosting an upcoming event to offer support. On Friday, Nov. 18 from 10 a.m to 2 p.m, the clinic is hosting a drive-through event with Molina Healthcare.

“The event will be an opportunity for people to meet a few of our behavioral health staff, along with getting some tips on managing the holiday expectations and stress,” Sawyer says. “Holidays aren’t always the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ for everyone and for anyone that is struggling through the holiday season or any time of the year, we want them to know they are not alone, and secondly, our behavioral health services are here for them - whether it’s short term or long term.”

There is also a virtual web page offering helpful ways on managing depression, anxiety, expectations, and boundaries throughout the holiday season, offered on their Facebook page.

Albert Ujkaj, LMSW, MBA, works as the Behavioral Director at Hamilton Community Health Network. He oversees the Behavioral Health Clinic, which provides clinical therapy, one-on-one therapy, group counseling, marriage counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, and dialectical behavioral therapy. 
Albert Ujkaj.
Ujkaj says the health network aims to provide clients with skills to be proactive during the holiday season, and techniques to combat depression and insomnia. He says feeling a sense of hopelessness, lack of motivation to do regular daily tasks, not sleeping enough, or oversleeping are common depression symptoms. 

For those suffering from depression, many people also experience insomnia. Ujkaj recommends focusing on sleep hygiene and healthy rest.

“Some techniques of sleep hygiene are avoiding social media and your phone light several hours before sleeping, keeping a sleep journal, and promoting eight hours' worth of sleep,” he says.

“Another technique we use is to incorporate exercise; at least 30 minutes of cardio a day helps release serotonin from the brainstem and helps to combat some of the depressive symptoms. Incorporating things like regularity in your daily schedule. Research shows that if you deviate from your daily schedule by 15 minutes, you release stress hormones into the body like cortisol and adrenaline.”

Keeping up with regular labs, and monitoring your Vitamin D levels, especially during the winter months is important too. Ujkaj says the first step is to consult with your primary care provider (PCP) or visit Hamilton Clinic for same-day service with an initial assessment. Therapy, medication, and other holistic approaches will be prescribed on a case-by-case basis.

“The holistic approach is without medications,” he says. “We like to see if it’s the thought process and see how we can train this person with different techniques on mindfulness, awareness, positive psychology, being proactive with symptoms, etc. Then we consult with the trained psychologist or PCP,” he says.

There’s always been a stigma with mental health, Ujkaj says, but that’s something Hamilton is trying to dissolve, especially as it becomes even more relevant in today’s world. Over the past few years of the pandemic, many people who had never felt anxiety or depression before became isolated and worried about their health and safety. 

“Now, I think people are more apt to get the help that they need, with trying to combat some of those symptoms and improve other areas of life. Your physical health is attached to your mental health and well-being – they are one,” he says. 

Hamilton offers same-day service, available in-person by appointment, by phone, and virtually for patients via Zoom. 

Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.