State Sen. Susan Deschambault

Now that it’s December, many of us are eagerly preparing for the holiday season and looking ahead to the cold winter months. During the holidays, we get to spend time with loved ones, relax and eat our favorite foods. Unfortunately, winter and the holidays can also be a stressful time: With the colder temperatures, our heating bills go up. For seniors and folks who struggle with mobility issues, the icy roads and sidewalks make it harder to get around. And the shorter days mean people can experience seasonal depression.

This holiday season, let’s make it a priority to reach out to people in our community, help those in need and take care of ourselves and each other.

The next time you go grocery shopping, consider buying just a little extra to donate to the Biddeford Food Pantry at 162 Elm St., or another food pantry in our area. Cook an extra serving of your holiday meal and bring it over to your neighbor, or better yet, invite them over to share a meal.

Check on your neighbors to make sure they are staying warm this winter. There are many options if people need help with their heating bills. York County Community Action Corporation administers HEAP, the Home Energy Assistance Program, which provides funds to help homeowners and renters keep their heat on. Another option is to check out the Seeds of Hope Neighborhood Center on 35 South St. in Biddeford for a warm place to socialize, or the local public library, such as Lyman’s Community Library at 10 John St. Invite a friend to come along, especially someone who may live alone, or doesn’t have family in the area.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is another part of the winter that we can easily overlook. When we wake up in the dark and drive home after work in the dark, this lack of direct sunlight can be challenging for many and can affect our moods without us realizing it. According to the Maine Senior Guide, during the winter months, it is especially important to prioritize wellness by exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and eating well. Do you sense a change in behavior with a friend or family member during these months? It could be helpful to be aware of how the change of seasons can affects not just your own mood, but the mood of those around you as well. For more information about SAD, please contact a health care professional.

I’m the first to admit that the holiday season can be a whirlwind of excitement and celebration. But let’s slow down for a moment and help our neighbors, make sure they have enough good food to eat and that they can stay warm in their home, or just check in on them and make sure they’re doing alright.

As always, if you or your loved ones ever need assistance and you don’t know where to go, call United Way’s hotline at 2-1-1. Trained professionals can direct you to the right resource or organization, whether you are in a crisis situation or not. Let’s all do what we can to look out for our neighbors.

State Sen. Susan Deschambault, D-Biddeford, represents Senate District 32 which includes Alfred, Arundel, Biddeford, Dayton, Kennebunkport, and Lyman.

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