News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

December 19, 2013

NAMI provides support through holiday stress

TERRE HAUTE — A group of people sat around a table inside a Terre Haute church Thursday night and shared advice about holiday stress and how to deal with it.

During its monthly meeting, local affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, hosted a talk at the Memorial United Methodist Church on Poplar Street titled the “Difficulties Associated with Coping During the Holidays,” led by Dr. John Thompson of Terre Haute-based Associated Psychologists.

NAMI Wabash Valley, which was formed 13 years ago, is an organization whose members and support group attendees include those who have mental illness and their families.

The group aims to support people with mental illness and their families and provide a venue for them to talk “with those who have been in their shoes,” said Sue Wynne, affiliate leader.

In addition, the group aims to raise awareness about mental health issues and perhaps “to rid the stigma” against it, Betty Porter, past affiliate leader, said.

Thursday night’s session aimed to reach out to those dealing with emotional difficulties during the holidays.

“Holidays are an emotional time for most families,” Porter said.

Porter said some feel isolated during the holidays, and the session was an effort to “help people who are suffering with the emotions we have during the holidays.”

Thompson offered advice about self-care, particularly in difficult family situations.

“Taking care of yourself during the holidays is important,” Thompson said. “If you do not take care of yourself, you and everybody around you can be more distressed,” he told the attendees.

It is important to “calm yourself down,” he said. One way to do this, Thompson explained, is through breathing exercises.

“One of the most powerful ways to calm yourself very quickly is breathing. ... breathe to relax,” he said.

Thompson told the group how.

“Breath in normal breath and breath out to a four count. … The idea is to breathe out very slowly,” he said.

During the lively hour and a half session, other topics included awkward family interactions to controlling one’s reactions to people’s negative behaviors. Participants shared their personal stories and asked questions.

One participant, Mike Grimes, asked about handling a “well-intentioned” individual who may ask a question like, “You’re not yourself today. What’s wrong?”

“A way to deal with that” is to ask back “Well, what are you noticing?” Thompson responded.

“You deepen the conversation. That’s a beautiful way to deal with criticisms.”  

During stressful family interactions, Thompson told the attendees to “take some time to step back [and] feel free to pull out of the interaction” by taking a walk. In addition, one can calm himself/herself down and engage with people without reacting negatively.

During the holidays, where there are a lot behavioral expectations, it is easy to overreact to feelings, Thompson said.

The idea, he said, is to be careful about overreacting to other people. Nobody can change another person, but an individual can change the response to that person, he said.

Holidays are also a chance for people to learn about themselves and their relationships, he said.

“My hope is that people will be able to take some pressure off themselves and [realize] that things that happen in families [are] not their fault,” Thompson added.

In addition to acquiring inner peace by loving and caring for oneself, it is also important to show understanding toward others.  

“Humility is not about me putting myself down,” he said. “Humility is about looking for worth in other people, reaching out to other people to help them recognize their worth.”

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or


• NAMI Wabash Valley meets at 6:30-8 p.m. every third Thursday of the month at the Memorial United Methodist Church, 2701 Poplar St.

To contact the group, call Sue Wynne at 812-201-3029 or Betty Porter at 812-877-9950


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