Tips for Beating the Holiday Blues from Cummins’ Chief Clinical Officer Robb Enlow

Traditionally speaking, the end-of-the-year holidays are often associated with concepts like love, happiness, warmth, family, friendship and togetherness. But despite conventional wisdom, there are many realities of the holiday season that can make it decidedly less than “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Although the holidays are intended to be a time for relaxation, they typically come with a host of unique stressors. These may include increased busyness, stressful family interactions, social functions or lack thereof, pressures related to gift giving, and even the expectation to be happy. These stressors can sometimes trigger feelings of anxiety, sadness and loneliness referred to as the “holiday blues.”

People who have pre-existing mental health conditions like depression can be especially vulnerable to these effects. For example, in one survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64% of people with a diagnosed mental illness reported that the holidays make their condition worse. In addition, 75% of respondents said the holidays contribute to feelings of sadness or dissatisfaction.

If we hope to make it through the holiday season with our mental health intact, we need to know how to deal with negative thoughts and avoid common triggers. We spoke with Robb Enlow, Chief Clinical Officer at Cummins Behavioral Health, to learn some of the best strategies for beating the holiday blues.

Robb Enlow on Beating the Holiday Blues

Robb Enlow, LMHC, Chief Clinical Officer at Cummins BHS

As a trained mental health therapist, Robb Enlow has helped many individuals work through behavioral health problems and crises, and the holiday blues are no exception. “Not everyone perceives the holidays as a happy, joyful time. For some people, they can cause an increase in depression,” he says.

According to Robb, there are some simple interventions that anyone can use to help fend off or alleviate holiday-related depression. Here are his four most valuable strategies, along with some suggestions for putting them into practice:

Seek social support, avoid isolation

If you find yourself feeling sad or lonely during the holidays, the best thing to do is seek emotional support from friends and family instead of remaining alone. “Depression is a disorder in which people do isolate,” Robb says. “Through their sadness or grief, they tend to stick by themselves, so this advice is going to the contrary of what people would normally do when they’re feeling down. You don’t necessarily need to seek out lots of people, just someone who can provide good support for you.”

A good example would be close friends, family members, or a significant other who understands your emotional struggles. Don’t worry about inconveniencing the other person or people—if they are true friends, they won’t mind supporting you in your time of need.

Continue regular wellness behaviors

One way to put negative emotions in check is to maintain your physical and mental health. This means not letting your normal wellness behaviors lapse on account of the holidays. “Number two on the list is to continue wellness behaviors such as getting enough sleep, eating the right food, not over-indulging in food, and avoiding alcohol,” Robb says.

Do your best to adhere to your regular sleep and exercise regimens during the holidays, even if this means skipping some events or gatherings. In addition, be mindful about the amount of sugary treats you consume. Don’t stray too far from your nutritional guidelines, and reach for healthy snacks whenever possible.

Re-frame negative thoughts

If negative thoughts start running through your head, it’s important not to dwell on them, as this will only worsen your mood and lead to more negative thinking. Instead, you should practice changing your thought patterns to prevent your mood from spiraling in a negative direction.

When re-framing your thoughts, the key is to divert your attention away from the idea that bothers you and toward something more comforting or constructive. Robb gives the following example: “If you’re thinking, ‘I should be happy. I should be jolly like everyone else,’ recognize that’s not necessary and re-frame the thought to something like, ‘This only comes once a year. I’m going to be able to make it through the holidays. This, too, will pass.’ “

Avoid social media triggers

Social media can be a source of anxiety and depression for many people, and this is especially true during the holiday season. “Around the holidays, people like to post all these fabulous Norman Rockwell, Currier and Ives-like photos. That’s what you see on social media, and if that’s not your experience, then that can get you thinking, ‘I should be doing that. I shouldn’t be like this,’ “ Robb says.

If you’re susceptible to these kinds of triggers, you might consider taking a break from social media during the holidays. Instead of comparing your life to the videos and images you see online, turn off your screens for a while and pay attention to your own experiences—especially those that are pleasant or rewarding.

While it can be normal to feel a little down during the holiday season, persistent sadness or anxiety could be symptoms of a deeper behavioral health issue. If your “holiday blues” don’t pass or get worse over time, we encourage you to seek help from a mental health professional. Our therapists and counselors at Cummins BHS are equipped to help with a wide variety of behavioral health problems.

We wish you and your loved ones a very happy, relaxing, and fulfilling holiday season!


For more wellness tips and strategies you can use during the holidays and throughout the new year, we recommend the articles below!

Laughter: Do It Just for the Health of It!
What Do Food Critics Know About Savoring Life?

How Nutrition Affects Mental Health with Cummins’ Jaime Selby and Hendricks Regional Health’s Kaitie Delgado

When we’re feeling hungry and need something to eat, we might not always stop to think about what we’re putting into our bodies. In reality, though, the food we consume can have a significant impact on our health. Food is the fuel our bodies use to power their many processes, so it only makes sense that higher-quality fuel helps them run more efficiently.

Most people know that diet and nutrition play a role in physical health. It has long been known that poor eating and exercise habits can lead to chronic health disorders like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and poor bone health. However, as nutritionists and health professionals gain a deeper understanding of the brain, they’re discovering that what we eat can also affect our mental health.

On the one hand, if a person develops physical health problems due to poor nutrition, they may experience feelings of distress and anxiety about the state of their health. On the other hand, scientific research suggests that certain diets are associated with fewer mental health problems. Specifically, diets that are high in vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains and seafood have been associated with reduced risk for depression and cognitive impairment.

The question is: what should (and shouldn’t) we eat to get the best nutrition, and how can we change our eating behaviors to meet these needs? We spoke with Cummins therapist Jamie Selby and sports dietitian Kaitie Delgado of Hendricks Regional Health to find out.

What to Eat and What to Avoid

Jamie Selby and Kaitie Delgado
Jamie Selby (left), therapist at Cummins Behavioral Health, and Kaitie Delgado (right), Clinical Sports Dietitian at Hendricks Regional Health

Proper nutrition is all about eating enough of the things that are good for you and less of the things that aren’t so good for you. In general, this means eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, enough whole grains and protein for your individual needs, and limiting consumption of fats and sugars. The USDA’s MyPlate program provides useful nutritional guidelines on the types and amounts of food you should be eating at each meal.

To ensure that they’re getting all of their essential nutrients, dietitian Kaitie Delgado often instructs patients to eat foods of many different colors. “I say, ‘Eat the rainbow.’ Make sure you’re getting in lots of bold colors. The biggest thing I try to encourage is that at least twice a month, maybe every other week, you try something that you’ve never had before. I want you to go to that fresh produce section and pick out something that’s bold and bright. I want people to say, ‘You know, I haven’t had a dark purple vegetable in a long time. Have you ever had an eggplant?’ And then I can help them with that,” Delgado says.

Many nutritional problems can be traced to excessive consumption of processed foods. These are foods that are prepared and packaged for consumers, such as frozen meals, canned goods and snack foods. As compared to “whole” or unprocessed foods, processed foods typically contain fewer nutrients and more additives like fat, sugar, salt and preservatives, and they should therefore be avoided as much as possible.

Unfortunately, not everyone has access to affordable whole foods, which makes it much harder to maintain a healthy diet. This is especially true for people who have low income or live in rural areas, as Cummins therapist Jamie Selby explains:

“In rural Indiana, we’re having an influx of discount stores that are taking out the ‘mom and pop’ grocery stores in some of the towns. They’re quick, they’re convenient, you can walk over to them, but the food you’re getting there is mostly processed. I work with some people who don’t have jobs, who are running to the gas station and getting a pack of cigarettes, a Red Bull, and a bag of chips or a pizza with processed and cured meats. And they have high blood pressure because of their diet, which plays into their anxiety. It’s all connected.”

The Importance of Cooking

One of the easiest ways to improve our nutritional intake is to cook more. Cooking helps us consume more whole and unprocessed foods, and it also allows us to control the amount of fat, sugar and salt that ends up in our meals.

However, some people don’t like to cook or feel that they don’t have enough time for it. According to Delgado, this isn’t as big an issue as it might seem. “That population fits best with me, because I don’t enjoy cooking. But it’s something I have to do because I know how important it is,” she says. “My cooking is like, ‘I know where these ingredients are in the grocery store, it’s going to take less than 15 minutes to get them, and it will only take 10 minutes to cook.’ I like to roast things. You can just pop it in the oven and make it really easy.”

If you still have trouble creating a cooking routine, you can always start small. Try cooking dinner two or three nights a week instead of ordering out or eating a prepared meal. As you grow more accustomed to cooking, you can then work on increasing the number of home-cooked meals you eat. You can even make cooking an opportunity for family bonding by having everyone in your home assist with meal preparation. Selby is a strong supporter of this method because of the additional benefits it can provide for children, as she explains:

“The lack of family dinners that we have today is a huge problem for emotional wellness and development in children. Studies show we need to sit down and have that meal as a family. My grandmother is American Indian, and when I was a child, we would make tamales with her at Christmas. I was not only getting quality time with my grandmother and learning to cook, but I was also getting a course on how her generation thought about food and how it was important to them. Those are the other life lessons you learn in the kitchen.”

When it comes to cooking and healthy eating, Cummins BHS is leading by example! Our Wellness Committee has been accepting healthy recipes from our staff since October, which will culminate this week with a recipe contest and the release of a company cookbook. We encourage you to get into the spirit of healthy eating by running friendly competitions of your own with friends, family or coworkers!

And if you’re looking for some professional help taking charge of your health, diet and physical fitness, consider registering for a Spring 2020 Lifesteps® class with Hendricks Regional Health! Kaitie Delgado will be one of two registered dietitians teaching this 16-week class on weight management. Day, evening, and virtual classes are available. You can learn more about HRH’s Lifesteps® classes here or register for a class on HRH’s events page!

Fruits and vegetables

Giving Domestic Violence Survivors a Chance at Independence: Cummins BHS, Sheltering Wings and RealAmerica Announce Haven Homes

Domestic violence levies an enormous toll on women, men and children across the United States. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, more than 12 million people are victims of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner each year. On average, that’s 24 people every minute. In Indiana, 40% of women and 27% of men experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime, and on a single day in 2014, Indiana domestic violence programs served 1,807 victims, as reported by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

The harmful effects of domestic violence continue long after an incident occurs. In addition to psychological issues that can arise, survivors may find themselves lacking the basic resources they need to rebuild their lives after an abusive relationship. Cassie Mecklenburg, Executive Director of Sheltering Wings in Danville, IN, explains:

Cassie Mecklenburg, Executive Director of Sheltering Wings
Cassie Mecklenburg, Executive Director of Sheltering Wings

“There was a community assessment completed a few years ago, and it identified four primary barriers preventing families from having self-sufficiency, establishing their well-being, and moving forward independently after domestic violence. The barriers are affordable housing, reliable transportation, access to mental health services, and affordable childcare.”

In an effort to address the unmet needs of domestic violence survivors, Cummins Behavioral Health and Sheltering Wings have partnered with RealAmerica Development LLC to build an affordable housing community in Plainfield, IN. The development, known as Haven Homes Apartments, will provide a stable living environment as well as education and advocacy for individuals and families escaping domestic violence. The goal? To help survivors return to independent living and grow their personal role from “victim of domestic violence” to “empowered, thriving member of the community.”

Haven Homes: Affordable Housing Meets Accessible Support

Haven Homes is designed to provide the support services of a domestic violence shelter within a more independent living environment. “As families are transitioning out of Sheltering Wings, they will be able to move into this area and have support services directly available to them,” Mecklenburg says.

The apartment complex will be built near 2601 Stout Heritage Parkway in Plainfield using Rental Housing Tax Credits (RHTC) from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA). It will consist of one two-story and one three-story apartment building, including a total of 52 apartments ranging in size from one-bedroom to three-bedroom. While all of the apartments will be catered toward individuals and families who are escaping domestic violence, a portion of the units will be fully furnished for those who are also struggling with chronic homelessness.

In addition to affordable housing, the complex will include a community center where residents can speak with social workers or healthcare professionals in person or via teleconference. Mecklenburg says, “I kind of explain it as a ‘clubhouse on steroids.’ It’s not only your typical clubhouse, but residents will also have access to case management, support groups, life skills classes, and other services. We know that when we feel like we’re on an island, when we feel like we’re isolated, it’s much more difficult to be engaged in the community and surround ourselves with the resources we need. By having this partnership with Cummins and having these services available to families, we can put those resources right at their fingertips.”

Convenient access the life skills classes is of particular importance, as people who have been in abusive relationships for an extended period of time may not know how to perform some of the basic tasks necessary for day-to-day living. Jessica Hynson, a Clinical Team Lead at Cummins Behavioral Health, explains:

“Depending on what was going on in the home, if someone needs to get out of that situation, they might not know how to pay a bill, how to buy a home, how to rent an apartment, or many other things that we might take for granted because we were taught. But that opportunity was taken away from them. We’ll be able to provide that kind of skills training, as well as trauma therapy for children and adults.”

Jessica Hynson, Clinical Team Lead at Cummins Behavioral Health Systems
Jessica Hynson (MA, LMHC, CSAYC), Clinical Team Lead at Cummins BHS

Construction on Haven Homes is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2020 and should be completed by the summer of 2021. Once the complex is open, it can begin helping individuals and families recover and grow from domestic violence.

As Mecklenburg says, “We’re excited for these families, because what it will do is help take them from the identity of a victim or survivor and move them into the identity of a Quaker, which is the mascot of Plainfield. We want to help them move beyond their past experiences and create a new life for themselves.”

We look forward to sharing more news and updates on Haven Homes as the development moves closer to completion! For now, we recommend watching this video about Domestic Violence Awareness Month with Cassie Mecklenburg and Jessica Hynson!