Depression: Tips to Help Friends and Family

Many people have dealt with depression or know someone who has struggled with it. This can make everyday tasks difficult to perform and take the fun out of hobbies and passions. Sometimes people may not know what to do, if they should seek help, or if they even have depression. We spoke with SIMED Health Psychologist Dr. Kristy Quackenbush-Orr. She shared tips on how to help friends and family. She also provided information on when you should see a doctor and what symptoms people with depression usually present. 

It's important to know there are different severity levels of depression. You may not cry daily, have suicidal thoughts, or sleep all the time, but you can still experience depression. It can be more subtle, like feeling fatigued, having difficulty sleeping, not engaging in activities you used to enjoy, or not feeling motivated. 

Symptoms include:

1. Feelings of sadness

2. Feelings of hopelessness

3. Feelings of helplessness

4. Anhedonia (Inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable like hobbies) 

5. Difficulty sleeping

6. A change in appetite

7. Fatigue

8. Thoughts of suicide

9. Poor concentration

10. Poor motivation

When should you see a doctor? If you notice any changes in mood or behavior for two weeks, complete a depression screening. You can get a screening through a SIMED Health Psychologist or SIMED Psychiatrist.

Why should you get a depression screening? You can do a depression screening to find out if you have the disorder and the level of severity you experience. Screenings can be completed online or in paper-pencil format; a medical provider can also verbally ask questions. Once a screening is completed, a score is calculated which should indicate whether someone is experiencing a level of depression that requires further assistance. You should get a screening if you have been tearful, experiencing loss of interest in activities, feeling helpless, having thoughts of ending your life, feeling hopeless, or feeling lonely.


Here are additional tips you can suggest to those struggling with depression.

1. Exercise – You should exercise at least 30 minutes every day as approved by your physician. Exercise has been shown to improve mood and reduce anxiety.

2. Eat Healthy – Research recommends a Mediterranean diet and eating few sugary, processed foods.

3. Use Positive Coping Skills Daily – Coping skills help with handling stress in an effective manner. Coping skills include: journaling, deep breathing exercises, meditation, drawing, working out, gardening, going to church, spending time with friends, and engaging in a hobby.

4. Use Your Resources - Many resources are available to people with depression, and you are not alone. You can find resources online or in your local community.

5. Attend a support group – You can find support groups in most cities including Gainesville and Ocala.

6. See a therapist – You should see either a psychologist or a licensed mental health counselor to be evaluated to determine if medication is recommended. Psychotherapy or "talk therapy" can teach individuals how to change their automatic thoughts or their negative thought patterns. In psychotherapy, patients will also learn how to use cognitive reframes to change the way they think about situations. Therapy also addresses ways to incorporate positive coping skills daily into life. SIMED Health Psychologists offer psychotherapy.

7. Increase your social support – Spend more time with friends and reach out to friends for support and to help you cope. 


If you know someone experiencing anxiety or depression, let them know that you are here to support them through this time as you listen to their concerns and fears.

Click here to request an appointment online with a SIMED Psychologist and learn more about treatment options. 

If you or someone you know have thoughts of suicide, we encourage you to contact the suicide hotline ( at 1-800-273-8255. Confidential help is available for free 24/7.

Tips to Reduce Stress During the Holidays

Wrapped gifts and presents with text about how people spend so much money on gifts for the holidays

The holiday seasons can be full of stress. We talked with SIMED Healthy Psychologist Dr. Kristy Quackenbush about why the holidays cause so much anxiety and what you can do to reduce that stress.

Why are the holidays stressful?

We tend to experience more stress during the holiday season for many reasons!

First, people put pressure on themselves to buy the “perfect” gift for loved ones. Gift buying often leads to people feeling overwhelmed about spending money (that they often do not have). According to the American Research Group, the average American is planning on spending $983 on Christmas presents, which is more than the average American makes in a week!

The holidays can also be stressful when gathering family members under one roof. Past negative interactions, past psychological injuries, different life views (I.e. Political views), judgmental/rude comments (“Did you gain weight?” “Are you still single?!”), and unsolicited advice given from fellow family members can be overwhelming and anxiety inducing.

Tip about stress during the holidays with two people laughing and smilingFurthermore, setting unrealistic expectations for the holidays also increases holiday stress.

Another stressor is food! The American culture centers many holidays around the food. For some, cooking is overwhelming. Some people have food allergies. Some people have health complications that can be affected by food. Some people worry about their weight. The holidays are a time when many are tempted to overeat or eat food that will negatively affect their health.

Last but not least, people tend to travel for the holidays, and whether you’re traveling via car, plane, or train, traveling can be stressful.

What are some indicators that I might be stressed about the holidays?

Symptoms of stress include:

1. Poor sleep
2. Change in appetite
3. New physical complaints (such as headaches, tightness in the neck, stomach aches, shortness of breath, nausea, diarrhea)
4. Being more forgetful
5. Being more irritable
6. Crying
7. Yelling/arguing

Our body is always providing us with information, and often we are “too busy” to listen. Pay attention to your physical symptoms/cues and take stock of the basic life necessities (I.e. “Have I been sleeping well?”, “Did I eat and drink enough water today?”).

tip about stress during the holiday with woman taking a photographI’ve figured out I’m stressed. What can I do to feel better?

These tips will help you feel better in no time.

1. Get around 8 hours of sleep.
Avoid electronics (I.e. cellphones, televisions, IPads, etc.) at least 30 minutes before bed.
Avoid caffeine in the evening.

2. Eat well.
Avoid eating just one large meal.
Eat vegetables and fruits.
Limit alcohol intake.
Limit sugar.
Drink water.
When we are not sleeping or eating well, our physical health, mood, and memory can be negatively impacted.

3. Exercise.
Exercise is beneficial for our physical health, decreasing stress, improving mood, and improving memory.
A 30-minute walk outside in a local park can assist with decreasing stress.
Consider listening to your favorite music while walking or working out.

4. Continue to engage in hobbies/activities you enjoy.
This will give you a break from the stressors of the day.

5. Engage in a mindfulness activities.Tip about stress during the holidays with medicine container
For example, while eating your favorite food or spending time outside, stop and ask yourself: What do I see? What do I feel? What do I hear? What do I taste? What do I smell? Take time engaging in all your senses. Stop and smell the roses!

6. Continue to take your medications as prescribed!
People have a tendency to forget to take their medications due to changes in daily routine (I.e. traveling) or the excitement of the holiday.

If none of these tips are helpful, contact a mental health provider such as a psychologist, mental health counselor, or psychiatrist.

Remember to also focus on the positives!

1. Use cognitive reframes (I.e. Yes, I have a flat tire, but at least, I have a vehicle or did not get injured!).
2. Take time to enjoy the holiday by learning about loved ones (I.e. ask questions: What was your favorite toy as a child? If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?)
3. Remember that a more expensive gift does not mean you love someone more. Spending time with a person is an invaluable gift.
4. Consider looking into a local church or finding an Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meeting if you are traveling out of the area.

Tip about stress during the holidays with woman at churchStress not only has short-term repercussions (I.e. muscle tension, diarrhea, poor sleep, low libido, depression, anxiety, etc.), but it can also lead to ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, memory impairment, and more. Managing stress is important, even during the holidays, when you feel like you need to prioritize so much else.

Dr. Quackenbush sees patients in Ocala and Lady Lake who are coping with a physical illness. To schedule an appointment with her or another health psychologist in Ocala or Lady Lake, call (352) 732-3110. You can also schedule an appointment online.

SIMED Health Psychologists are also available in Gainesville and Chiefland at (352) 332-9441 or via an appointment request online, and SIMED Psychiatry is offered in Lady Lake/The Villages at (352) 753-6887 or online.

Happy Holidays!

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