Blue Christmas is reality for many

Friends and family members who confine themselves to their homes and don’t want to participate in holiday preparations need encouragement from loved ones to involve themselves in the season.Many people feel sad during the holidays because of recent losses, time and financial stresses, and unrealistic expectations, said Robin Riha, LMSW, Big Spring State Hospital director of Social Work Services.“The changes in emotions can originate from a variety of sources — unrealistic expectations about the holidays, increased social demands, financial hardship, traditions changing, stress, fatigue. Remembering those you have lost and won’t be there for this season, being alone without support, not being able to do what you want to do, even a change in the weather (cold) can make someone feel ‘blue,’” she said. “These feelings of loss and estrangement are often amplified during the holiday season.”At any other time of the year, people may be able to move past the same feelings, but during a time when everyone is expected to be joyful, guilt often is a debilitating factor, Riha said.People living with the holiday blues may exhibit signs of sadness, excessive sleeping, insomnia, nervousness, agitation and crying, she said. Also, little interest in activities such as shopping, cooking or going to social gatherings can be a heads-up to friends and family that something is wrong.Many communities offer free activities, such as holiday tours, Christmas light displays, and church and community plays and productions and can help kick-start someone into involving themselves in the season with a little encouragement from loved ones, Riha said. The holiday season also is a wonderful time to volunteer. Many food banks, children’s charities and hospitals, including Big Spring State Hospital need an extra pair of hands during the holiday season.The feeling of giving back is a powerful way to lift the holiday blues, she said.Most importantly, we should spend time with people we care about.It also may be a good time to start a new holiday tradition, Riha said. “Try not to focus on the past, but begin developing new personal New Year’s resolutions. This may help when the New Year arrives and you can focus on new goals.”Those who are depressed may try to spend themselves out of depression, but that short-lived euphoria from shopping often leads to guilt as soon as reality sets in, she said.Healthy habits, such as a good diet, exercise and plenty of rest may help alleviate some of the anxiety during this time of year.The holiday blues should be short-lived and last through the holiday season, lifting after the first of the year when the holidays conclude and daily routines resume, she said.“This depressed feeling usually subsides after all the commotion of the season,” Riha said. “It’s a normal stress reaction to a stress-filled time of the year.”“If holiday depression continues into the New Year and a person continues to show signs of depression, they should seek professional help.”West Texas Centers operates a 24-hour Crisis Hotline. The toll-free number is 1-800-375-4357.