Michelle Gabrielle Centamore

8 POSTS 0 COMMENTS

How To Use Your Tax Refund Wisely

Looking forward to a big refund check from your tax return?

Don’t be so quick to spend it, says David Schwartz, CFP, CEO of FCE Group, a wealth management, investment advisory and financial planning firm in Lake Success. While it may seem like an easy and justifiable round-trip ticket for your dream vacation, your refund is truly an opportunity to secure your finances.

So, spend — and most importantly, save and invest — wisely.

GOT DEBT?

If you have any type of high-interest debt, clear it, or pay as much off as you can.

“There is no good debt,” says Schwartz.

Start with the credit card that is the most costly or has the highest interest rate and then work your way down from there.

If you have no debt, then apply the “spend 1/3, save 1/3, invest 1/3” rule.

SPEND ONE-THIRD

Spend on something that creates worth, suggests Schwartz.

Remodeling a kitchen can add value to your home if you’re looking to sell down the line. Fix your car so it doesn’t break down.

“If you are going to spend your refund, spend it on something that has value instead of running to stores and buying stuff,” says Schwartz.

Desperate for a getaway?

“Your family vacation does not need to involve a plane ticket or boat or something lavish,” says Schwartz.

It could be a simple day trip to Montauk.

SAVE ONE-THIRD

If you’re going to save, consider a money market fund. Visit a local bank or discount brokerage firm and seek a high yield.

“It’s just like a high-interest savings account and you can withdraw funds at any time,” notes Schwartz.

That saved money can be a safeguard if your job is in jeopardy or if you’re looking to make a dramatic or risky career move. Plan ahead for your kids’ college tuition with a 529 plan.

“You can save New York State tax, which is a good thing,” says Schwartz, however, that money could affect whether or not you qualify for financial aid.

INVEST ONE-THIRD

Establish an individual retirement account (IRA) or contribute to an existing one and you’ll be setting yourself up for a healthier, more financially stable retirement, says Schwartz.

You don’t need a minimum to open it and whatever it earns, you won’t pay taxes on the interest until you start taking retirement distributions. You should also see if you qualify for a Roth IRA: Although the contributions are not deductible, the retirement account grows tax-free and there is no tax to be paid when the distributions begin.

“If you have extra money and you put it away,” says Schwartz, “it compounds and it grows and it makes life so much more enjoyable down the road.”

WELLNESS PLAN: PERSONAL FINANCE HEALTH 

It’s but a lucky few that haven’t found themselves behind in their bills and struggling to get out of a financial hole at some point in their lives — some more so than others.

Since it is only a matter of when, not if, financial hardships — natural disasters, divorce, job loss, to name a few — will occur, the best course of action is to plan ahead with a rainy-day fund and these tips from financial experts:

Make a Financial Calendar: Key to balancing your budget is tracking when income comes in and when bills are due.

Check Your Interest Rate: APR too high? Research lenders that offer lower rates. And switch to a credit union with a higher yield on checking accounts.

Track Your Net Worth: Checking your credit score isn’t the only thing that matters when it comes time for a big-ticket purchase.

Set a Budget: And if more money is going out than coming in, take corrective action immediately.

Try an All-Cash Diet: Think of the savings at the gas pump alone!

Take a Daily Money Minute: The budget isn’t going to track itself.

Allocate 20 percent of Income to Financial Priorities: Like paying down debt, for one.

Budget About 30 percent to Lifestyle Spending: Because once you have a budget, you’ll know exactly how much guilt-free fun you can afford.

Helping Hands for Kids With ASD

One in 68 children nationwide has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a condition characterized by developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

To help individuals with autism who often struggle to fit into mainstream environments, an increasing number of local services are being offered on Long Island to make typical family outings that may be intimidating easier.

“Many families with children who have autism often feel isolated and shut out from the rest of the community,” says Corinne Brown, Kings Park mother of 10-year-old Patrick, who has autism. Brown also represents the Long Island chapter of Talk About Curing Autism (TACA), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to educating, empowering and supporting families affected by autism. “When theaters and museums do offer sensory-friendly events, it is a great opportunity to take our children out as a family and not feel judged.”

While further progress is needed, great strides have been made in understanding the needs of families and children with autism.

“New York is probably the most aggressive of all states in advocating for people with autism to be integrated in society and succeeding in that,” says John Pfeifer, senior director of clinical services at Life’s WORC Family Center for Autism. “The ultimate goal in supporting kids with autism is helping them succeed in the outside world.”

Established in 1971, Life’s WORC is a nonprofit that provides services and support to people with developmental disabilities and autism and their families in Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties. Life’s WORC offers classes such as cooking, yoga and music therapy, to help improve sensory development, communication and social skills.

Helping people with autism takes a village. As kids with autism learn how to function in their natural environment, their families are learning how to support them.

“Parents are trained to implement and maintain strategies to help generalize the skills throughout the day and different environments the child is exposed to,” says Andrea Kotler, a licensed behavioral therapist and regional director of Cedarhurst-based Proud Moments ABA Therapy. “Staff will go with clients to events in their community and facilitate their involvement.”

Proud Moments also offers social skills programs and “in-the-moment help” in the community. Beyond the agencies, sensory gardens, modified theater performances and special play centers offer opportunities for community inclusion for kids with autism.

Beyond the agencies, sensory gardens, and modified theater performances, special play centers offer opportunities for community inclusion for kids with autism.

“There is a huge increase in community events and programs meant to include individuals with developmental disabilities in activities that some have not beenable to attend in the past,” says Nicole Weidenbaum, executive director of Nassau Suffolk Services for Autism (NSSA), which offers educational, outreach/training and recreational programs, consultation services and in-home respite services. “We see doctors and dentists opening early for us and allowing us to visit and just sit in the chair for no charge. And doing rounds at our school to have some firsthand training and face time with individuals diagnosed with autism. The youth of today is involved in buddy programs, mentorships, joint soccer teams… the list is endless and I am hopeful that this trend will continue.”

Full disclosure: Long Island Press Co-publisher Victoria Schneps-Yunis founded Life’s WORC.

AUTISM-FRIENDLY VENUES ON LI

AHRC Suffolk’s Sensory Garden
283 Route 25A Shoreham, 631-585-0100, ahrcsuffolk.org

AMC Movie Theaters Multiple locations, 877-262-4450, amctheatres.com

Gersh Academy at West Hills Day Camp
21 Sweet Hollow Rd., Huntington, 631-385-3342, gershacademy.org

Gymboree Play & Music
Multiple locations, 631-266-1114, gymboreeclasses.com

Long Island Children’s Museum
Charles Lindbergh Blvd., Garden City, 516-224-5800, licm.org

Next Generation Dance
295 Larkfield Rd., East Northport, 631-486-9191, dancenxg.com

Pump It Up
Multiple locations, 516-466-7867, pumpitupparty.com

Sensory Beans Inc. Children’s Gym
3309 Merrick Rd., Wantagh, 516-308-1462, sensorybeans.org

Sky Therapeutic Riding Long Island
989 Connetquot Ave., Central Islip, 516-241-2046, SkyRidingLI.com

Sweetbriar Nature Center
62 Eckernkamp Dr., Smithtown, 631-979-6344, sweetbriarnc.com

Theatre Three
412 Main St., Port Jefferson, 631-928-9100, theatrethree.com

Setting Your Sights On Eye Health

Our eyes allow us to see life in all its natural wonder. What we see serves as inspiration to awaken the rest of our senses.

As March is Eye Health Awareness Month, consider what the experts have to say on how to keep those windows to the world healthy.

Get routine checkups

For adults, annual exams are critical for a proper evaluation of eye health, says Dr. Matthew Gorski, assistant professor of ophthalmology at Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell in Great Neck. A comprehensive eye exam in which the eyes are dilated explores the entire eye and its surrounding structures, testing vision and eye pressure.

“Cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, floaters, dry eye syndrome, and refractive error are common issues that are diagnosed and routinely managed with an ophthalmologist,” says Dr. Gorski.

In addition to annual screenings with their pediatrician, children should also be periodically checked by a pediatric ophthalmologist, says Dr. Ketan Laud, retinal surgeon for Ophthalmic Consultants of Long Island (OCLI).

“The circuits between the brain and the eyes are established by age 11,” so it is critical to identify any weak connections early, explains Dr. Laud.

A lazy eye or amblyopia in a child could be corrected by therapy, surgery, or a patching program in which the stronger eye is covered to force the weaker eye to work harder. If caught early enough, this condition may be corrected with prescription lenses, he says.

Watch for warning signs

If you’re experiencing unusual symptoms — a sudden onset of flashing lights or floating spots, sudden loss in vision, double vision, headaches or increase in headaches — follow up, says Dr. Cheryl Berger Israeloff, a neuro visual optometrist at the Neuro Visual Center of New York in Garden City.

“It’s important to rule out an ocular problem,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be life threatening but if someone is seeing flashes of light, it can be vision threatening.”

Nearsightedness or farsightedness could be corrected with glasses or contacts, she adds.

Choose your eyewear wisely

Choosing between contact lenses or glasses is truly “a lifestyle choice,” says Dr. Richard G. Davis, ophthalmologist and managing partner at Precision Eye Care (an OCLI Division) and medical director at Island Eye Surgicenter in Huntington.

Contacts come in handy during “sports activities where having the correction closer to the eye aids in better visualization of fast movements with less peripheral distortion.”

Having a backup pair of eyeglasses is valuable if contacts can’t be worn due to an irritation or infection.

“Eyeglasses provide an element of protection to the eyes not afforded by contact lenses,” he says.

Avoid eye-related injuries

Wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from UVA and UVB light helps prevent the development of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, and decreases the risk of eyelid skin cancers, says Dr. Gorski. Use protective glasses during activities such as gardening, operating heavy tools or machinery, fishing, or playing sports.

Prevent infection by “properly cleaning or discarding contacts, never sleeping or swimming in contacts, and routinely seeing your eye care specialist.”

And don’t smoke.

“Smoking has been linked to the development of cataracts, age- related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and dry eye syndrome and can worsen thyroid-related eye disease,” he warns.

Heart healthy = eye healthy

According to Dr. Laud, there isn’t a strong link between diet and eyesight, however, “you can always be proactive,” especially if you have a family history of macular degeneration.

“Everybody should be eating a heart-healthy diet,” the doctor says. That means one that is low fat and rich in fish and dark, leafy vegetables that provide antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin.

Your eyes help you to connect to people, the environment and the world. They are the windows into your overall health and well-being. Practice due diligence to achieve a clear path of eye health and a greater quality of life.

TAKE A LOOK

Did you know that the blue light from your computer screen may put you at an increase for eye disease? OJO Eye Care Crystals is here to help. A new quick dissolving crystal that is packed with Lutein, Zeaxanthin, Zinc, Vitamin C and E, all the essentials you need protect and preserve your vision. Each packet of OJO contains a full daily dose of AREDS 2 vitamins that have been clinically shown by the National Eye Institute’s AREDS 2 study to promote eye health. Available in three flavors: Citrus Lutein Burst, Berry Lutein Blast and Sugar Free Citrus Lutein Burst, $39.95 (box of 30 sachets) at ojocrystals.com.

Helping Your Kids Achieve a Lifetime of Healthy Smiles

Your child’s smile should beam with happiness and confidence.

When it comes to dental health, it’s never too early to start instilling good dental hygiene to ensure that your child’s primary and adult teeth will be healthy, strong and free of decay or disease.

“Developing a good hygiene routine will follow you through to adulthood,” says Dr. Nazli Diba, pediatric dentist at Tooth Docs Dental in Roslyn. And the best way to help your child attain a healthy smile is to become educated, active participants in their dental health care.

Since February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, there’s no time like the present to make sure your little one is on the right track.

Start with your child’s first tooth

Teeth can appear at three months, six months or after their first birthday. Every child is different, says Dr. Diba, although typically by one year, babies can sport eight. But those need to be taken care of from the get-go.

With one or two teeth, rubbing gently with a soft cloth will suffice so breast milk, bottle milk or food does not sit throughout the night, which could lead to cavities or tooth decay, warns Dr. Diba. As more teeth arrive, use a toothbrush with a soft bristle and let the good brushing habits begin!

Bring your child to a pediatric dentist by age one

While you’re planning your child’s first birthday party, make that dental appointment, too!

That entails a comfy cuddle on their parent’s lap as the dentist performs a thorough checkup, cleaning and fluoride treatment, explains Dr. Diba. By five years old, your child’s dentist may want to start annual x-rays to check for hidden decay.

Follow up every six months

Baby teeth may be little, but they are super important, says Dr. Mindy Homer, pediatric dentist at Happy KiDDS Pediatric Dentistry in Manhasset.

“Most parents do not realize that the primary [baby] molars do not fall out until age 11 or 12,” she says. “However, those teeth erupt into the mouth around 15-24 months… A child’s mouth is constantly changing. Spaces are closing, which can increase their cavity risk. Teeth are falling out.”

Visiting the dentist every six months can detect cavities early. Placing sealants on permanent molars can prevent future cavities. If there is a cavity, because it is caught early, a less invasive treatment that doesn’t involve an anesthetic will most likely take care of it.

Watch for warning signs

White spots on the teeth may be a sign of “demineralization,” says Dr. Homer.

This happens when the “plaque and bacteria have begun to erode the enamel and remove the calcium.” The good news is, “A trained eye” can identify it before it becomes a big problem.

“If it is caught early, it can be reversed,” decreasing the need for antibiotics, extraction or nerve treatment, Dr. Homer says.

Practice good oral hygiene

Teeth must be brushed twice daily, once after breakfast and once at bedtime. Both manual and electric toothbrushes with soft bristles are effective, says Dr. Diba. Children should brush in a circular motion, being careful to cover each tooth. Don’t neglect the tongue!

“Eighty-five percent of bacteria sits on the back of the tongue and contributes to bad breath,” says Dr. Diba.

One to two minutes of good brushing should do the trick. To prevent interproximal cavities or cavities in between teeth, floss. No snacking after nighttime brushing, especially milk, Dr. Diba warns. Your child is safe with water.

Eat a healthy, teeth-friendly diet

Most people see only sugary foods as cavity culprits, but even healthy treats — raisins, fruit snacks, dried fruit — can be harmful, as they tend to get stuck in the teeth, Dr. Homer warns. Go for the chocolate or ice cream instead and try to avoid juice, another big cavity contributor, Dr. Homer suggests.

Water is best, she adds, as “it is very neutralizing. The pH of the mouth needs to be acidic in order for a cavity to develop. The more water you drink, the more you neutralize the acidity.”

Practice due diligence

“You don’t inherit cavities,” says Dr. Homer. “Vertical transmission of bacteria takes place as a child is acquiring teeth. The research shows that the caregiver who spends the most time with the child after birth tends to infect the child with his/her bacteria…Most people don’t know if they have received good or bad bacteria from their caregivers,” so the focus should be on preventative measures, she says.

Get rid of harmful bacteria with “good oral hygiene practices, a healthy diet and regular dental visits.”

The more you educate yourself, the better chance your child has to enjoy a lifetime of healthy teeth.

Is Your Heart Healthy?

When the first American Heart Month took place in February 1964, cardiovascular disease attributed for more than half of deaths nationwide, according to the American Heart Association.

Today, cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease and stroke, is the leading cause of death, causing more than 17.3 million deaths annually. But there is some good news, says Dr. Asif M. Rehman, associate director of Interventional Cardiology at South Nassau Communities Hospital.

“You can reduce your chances or even prevent heart disease,” he says.

A lot of progress has occurred in cardiovascular treatment. Mortality has decreased, awareness has increased, and preventative measures education has improved. Early diagnosis and treatment at the right time is helping people to live longer.

“All these things have collectively improved our cardiovascular disease mortality and outcome,” Dr. Rehman says.

Knowing the risk factors — hypertension or high blood pressure, diabetes, increased cholesterol levels, obesity, genetics, poor habits such as smoking — and making lifestyle changes to combat them, can alter a prognosis and prevent further progression of heart disease, he says.

Know the warning signs

Pain radiating from the chest into the neck and left shoulder and shortness of breath are typical warning signs associated with men and heart attacks.

Women may experience those symptoms and pain in their back, neck or jaw and stomach, nausea or lightheadedness, sweating and fatigue. Traditionally, men have heart attacks or are diagnosed with heart disease at an earlier age than women, who are initially protected by hormones, but after age 55, both are at near-equal risk, says Dr. Rehman.

Don’t miss your annual checkup

Your trusted primary care doctor will order routine bloodwork, test for diabetes and check cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, etc., says Dr. Rehman.

“If you are diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, you should have an established relationship with a cardiologist and follow their recommendation regarding treatment and follow-up,” he says.

Don’t smoke

Smoking is one of the main risk factors for heart disease and cancer. Secondhand smoke is just as dangerous, Dr. Rehman notes. Stop smoking to significantly improve your health and decrease your chances of having a heart attack or developing heart disease.

Watch what you eat

Enjoy a healthy, balanced diet — one that is rich in fruits and vegetables, protein, has low carbohydrates, and includes healthy fats such as avocados, suggests Dr. Rehman.

Avoid fad diets, which are often unhealthy and cannot be sustained. Limit
excessive alcohol consumption.

Exercise

Dr. Rehman recommends aerobic exercise three to four times per week for 30-45 minutes to prevent or stabilize cardiovascular disease.

People who are out of shape or overweight should gradually increase activity, walking on a treadmill, for example, to increase their heart rate at a comfortable, safe pace.

Reduce stress

To some extent, physical and emotional stress can contribute to cardiovascular disease, says Dr. Rehman.

Although stress cannot single-handedly create heart disease, “if you have an underlying cardiovascular disease that is asymptomatic or stable, when your body goes through emotional and physical stress that could become symptomatic,” says Dr. Rehman.

Get some sleep

A good night’s sleep, approximately eight hours, grants you more energy to increase your activity, and clarity to make smart, healthy choices.

Watch for sleep apnea, a disorder marked by inconsistent breathing, loud snoring and a feeling of exhaustion after a full night’s sleep.

This could contribute to a heart attack or stroke, Dr. Rehman warns.

Know your family history

Because of their genes, people sometimes develop a heart condition with little or no other known risk factors. While you can’t change your family history, you can be vigilant in monitoring your health care and adopting a healthy lifestyle, Dr. Rehman says.

“When you lose weight, your cholesterol will improve, your diabetes and blood pressure will get better,” says Dr. Rehman. “Life modification” can indeed change your life and your prognosis despite risk factors.

For those requiring medical assistance, technology has drastically improved quality of life and mortality rates, notes Dr. Rehman.

“If you have heart disease and address it at the right time, and if you are treated properly — which may include getting surgery, having a stent procedure or taking prescription medication to lower your blood pressure, for example — your quality of life can be good.”

Age-appropriate Tips for a Healthier You in 2018

The New Year is the perfect time to reflect, make amends with your past and put your best foot forward toward making better choices. Now that it’s 2018, the time is right to create a better you — a healthier you — with New Year’s resolutions that stick.

The first step is to set goals that are age-appropriate and realistic. Establish a plan and mindset to break negative habits. Embark on a health journey filled with positive actions and thoughts to help you to be more successful.

Education is key to understanding your body and learning how to make it healthier, according to Dr. Amir Herman, medical director of primary care practice, East Northport Medical Care and Natural Pain Solutions.

“We encourage our patients to meet with our dietician, have their metabolism checked, and we work to educate our patients on healthy lifestyles,” Dr. Amir says. He adds that aiming for optimal health in the new year is a “worthwhile resolution that although initially can be difficult to implement, will become a healthy habit and will improve one’s quality of life.”

When it comes to boosting your health, it’s crucial to address your body, mind, and spirit. Health expectations can differ depending on your age so incorporating age-appropriate resolutions can also contribute to success.

ADULTS IN THEIR 30s
Let’s face it, 30-somethings are the new 20-somethings.

They often feel they are invincible. They tend to neglect critical health protocols — such as scheduling annual physical exams — that may help them to be healthier and prevent early detection of a potential health challenge.

“Their mindset is focused on other aspects of their being — family life, professional advancement, etc.,” Dr. Herman warns. “They may indeed lead active lifestyles, and eat well, but unfortunately, as they often feel invincible, medical screening is not at the forefront of their consciousness.”

So what’s an indestructible 30-something to do?

“Good health for someone in their 30s should rely on equally distributing the mind-body spirit concept,” says Dr. Herman. “Active and healthy lifestyle generally is a good way to ensure a good quality of life now, as well as into the future.”

Stop smoking; exercise; take some time out to meditate or read. Spend quality time with a loved one.

“Additionally, an annual exam at their primary care physician’s office is always recommended and encouraged,” says Dr. Herman.

ADULTS IN THEIR 40s

Adults in their 40s go through some interesting physical and mental changes, says Dr. Herman.

While initially optimistic and excited because, “This is 40,” that positive energy can spiral with the arrival of new aches and pains that may make them feel less like a kid and much more reminiscent of the woes of their parents. If you’re not active at 40, says Dr. Herman, it’s time to kick it into gear, get your annual checkup and take your medical care more seriously.

“Good health in this decade would be defined as having a good quality of life and a good balance of one’s personal and professional life,” he says. “A good sleep schedule is important, and one should ensure that dietary needs are being met.”

Again, no smoking!

“Women at risk for breast cancer should start annual screenings; annual gynecologic exams are very important, as well,” he adds.

ADULTS IN THEIR 50s

Adults in their 50s often look on the bright side, though not without hesitation.

They are cognizant of potential opportunities for success, but disappointments, too. While mentally they may feel 40, the reality that their body has caught up to their physical age has set in.

“Retirement is entering into their radar and one is often grappling a bit more with their health,” says Dr. Herman, noting a possible need for increased doctor visits. “This can be a great challenge for a patient in this age group as it is difficult to take time off from a busy work schedule, and the increasing cost of medical care can be stressful.”

“Lifestyle optimization” is a priority to achieve better health, Dr. Herman asserts. “Smoking cessation, alcohol moderation, diet and exercise must be a mainstay of their approach. At 50, one should have a screening colonoscopy, and breast cancer screening and prostate cancer screening should be performed,” as well as a check on your heart, Dr. Herman advises.

“It is possible to have a wonderful quality of life in this decade, and balancing mind, body and spirit is as always very important,” he notes.

ADULTS IN THEIR 60s

The “Golden Years” may be blindingly fantastic for some and sadly dismal for others.

Those with a clean mental and physical bill of health look forward to retirement but “those who are not as fortunate are often anxious and depressed and seeking a way to improve upon their own quality of life,” says Dr. Herman. If you’re in your 60s,
 improving your health remains on the table, he says.

“It’s not too late,” he assures. Be an active participant in your health care, whether it’s seeing a mental health care professional or a sleep specialist.

“As always, a strong resolve and will to lead a healthy lifestyle is a cornerstone of achieving a good quality of life,” he says. “Annual ophthalmologic exams are important to screen for diseases like glaucoma and it is very important that an annual skin cancer screening is performed. Regular dentist visits can improve oral, as well as general health, and those with a smoking history should have lung cancer screening performed.”

Regardless of your age, improving health doesn’t happen overnight. Take baby steps for big changes.

“Long-term success comes from perseverance,” says Dr. Herman.

Stay focused. Keep a journal. Record your goals and the steps you plan to take to achieve them. Seek support. Acknowledge your successes and forgive the “missteps,” says Dr. Herman.

Great achievements start by believing in yourself and embracing the journey. And remember, it’s never too late to improve yourself!

Keeping The Holiday Blues Under Wraps

“’Tis the season to be jolly” — for most. But for some, the holidays that are supposed to be heartwarming can spur heart-wrenching experiences or memories.

Financial stress, lack of company and support, loss of a loved one, or another traumatic event can turn a season of bliss into one of loneliness and despair, according to Dr. Ronald Brenner, chief of behavioral health for Catholic Health Services and director of psychiatry at Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre.

“Holiday-induced depression or holiday blues can affect people of all ages,” says Brenner. “The holidays can act as a catalyst for depression.”

Shopping on a strict budget, pressure to be a perfect holiday host, and holding a game face when struggling with grief all produce anxiety, he says. This can lead to sleep deprivation, excessive drinking, overeating and ultimately, depression.

The good news? Holiday blues are usually short-lived, says Brenner, with a few practical strategies.

Know that this too shall pass. “The hallmark of holiday depression is that it goes away a day or two after the holidays are over,” says Brenner. “Major depressive disorder or clinical depression usually lasts much longer.”  See the light at the end of the tunnel.

Seek support. Realizing that others experience similar despondence can give perspective and ease sad feelings. As the holidays can be a painful reminder of a lost loved one, seeking comfort with trusted friends and family is important, says Brenner. Local bereavement support groups may also help, offering strength and unexpected joy.

Reminisce. Nostalgia is normal this time of year. Remembering and missing loved ones who have passed, realizing how fast time has gone by… but it doesn’t have to be all gloom and doom. Sharing treasured memories with others may improve one’s mood. Old photos or videos might bring on a tear or two, but also maybe a smile.

Create new memories. Starting new holiday traditions may give you something to look forward to. It can be reading a special book to your children each year, a night on the town with a friend or partner, or hitting the slopes at a ski resort you’ve never visited.

Plan ahead. Practice healthy habits to reduce stress, keep a to-do list and try not to overbook. Eliminate unnecessary work. Set realistic expectations. Make time to exercise and get enough sleep. Limit alcohol consumption and avoid unhealthy snacks and meals. Be kind to yourself.

Take it day by day. Sometimes, not following a rigid holiday routine can extinguish pressure to “have the perfect Christmas,” says East Northport resident Denise Schwartz. She lost her husband three years ago when their children were 6 months, 6 and 9. She makes each holiday “about the kids,” setting little to no expectations, with less pressure on herself.

“I make things very laid back and try to do different things so I don’t feel caught in a rut,” she says. “We make cookies on Christmas Eve but I don’t do a lot of cooking. I put all my energy into making the kids happy.”

Pay attention to the good. Because it’s there. Yes, the holiday season can be stressful. It can remind us of who and what we don’t have and that can indeed be painful. But if you open your eyes and your heart enough to see past that — people caring more and being overly generous and kind; beautiful white snow showers and snowmen; festive lights and music — you might beat the holiday blues and discover and enjoy the magic of the holiday season.

Depression and Bereavement Support

Mercy Medical Center
1000 North Village Ave., Rockville Centre. mercymedicalcenter.chsli.org 
Crisis Service: 516-705-2248. Outpatient Clinic: 516-705-3400.

Nassau County Psychological Association
60 Hollywood Ave., Massapequa. nassaupsych.org 516-377-1010

Suffolk County Psychological Association
P.O. Box 397, Commack. suffolkpsych.org 631-423-2409

COPE Foundation
P.O. Box 1251, Melville. copefoundation.org 516-832-2673.

Early to Rise: Creating a Brighter You

Wake up before sunrise? That’s right. Just when we thought our days couldn’t get any longer, research is encouraging us to hop out of bed before the first sign of daylight and reap the benefits.

Your reaction to a 5 a.m. wake-up call might be to roll over, cover your alarm clock with a pillow and simply scoff at the notion of starting your day hours before the school bus arrives or your daily commute begins.

But what if those couple of hours could give you more time — more energy, more productivity and more peace so that you could accomplish your day with a better attitude and outlook on life … all because you started your day in the dark?

So just what can you accomplish by not hitting the snooze button?

Get fit and stay fit. Early risers are on the move! Busy parents, especially, often find exercise to be the most challenging “activity” to fit into their day. Working mother of three, Carrie Yuli from Bay Shore has discovered that exercising at 5 a.m. has freed her from unwanted weight, lack of energy and diminishing self-esteem.

“I didn’t feel like myself and I wanted to put some time into me before my kids woke up and to fill my own cup before I could take care of everybody else,” says the first grade teacher at West Islip Elementary School who is also a Beachbody Coach. “I actually gained so much more energy because I was fueling my body every way by doing it.”

Work towards a goal. Elizabeth Aiken, AN East Northport mother of three who also works as a school librarian, is training for her seventh New York City Marathon. As her time improves, so does her approach toward life.

“Getting up so early has been a rough adjustment but it has made a huge impact on the success of my day. I get more done; I’m not rushing to the last minute getting us all out the door.”

It has given her more patience with her little ones, too, she says.

Be social. Who knew that you could catch an ice-hockey game so early in the morning? Long Island salesman, and married father of two, Timothy Devine, meets up with 20 of his friends two days per week before the crack of dawn to play ice hockey. No guilt, he says.

“I like getting up at that time and squeezing in an activity that doesn’t interfere with my family life.”

Gain inner peace and wellness. For nearly 50 years, Dr. Alan Sherr, founder and director of the Northport Wellness Center, has woken up before sunrise to accomplish readiness, meditate, heal and give thanks.

“The morning is the best time of day when the body is most at peace and in a more optimal place to support growth and development,” he says.

Get your “me time.” Married, mother of two and pediatric occupational therapist Lori Flynn of Montauk treasures her time alone in the morning. She rarely misses a sunrise.

“I drink coffee and just sit and journal or read. Everyone else but my dog is sleeping,” she says.

Witness Mother Nature’s Magic firsthand. Perhaps catching that first glimpse of sunshine is what inspires us to plow through whatever it is we aim to achieve in the day.

“It’s uplifting and a little magical in a way,” says Aiken. “There really is something about seeing the light first hit the sky or highlight the clouds that gives me something to look forward to.” It has a “renewing effect.”

Tomorrow is a new day. Set your alarm clock just a couple of hours earlier and meet a better you!