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Holidays can have some suffering through a case of blues

12/20/2013

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

The holiday blues aren't something you have to be down about.

Ken Loos, manager of prevention, education and outreach at High Plains Mental Health Center, said there are different ways to cope with the holiday blues, which can be brought on in different ways.

"For a lot of folks, grief and loss that occurs throughout the calendar year can be really intensified around the holidays," Loos said. "If a person has lost a loved one through death, they're going through a divorce, or if family members are awesome but geographically moved away, that really puts a lot of stress on the folks that remain. They can feel like traditions are dying on the vine."

Another possibility for the holiday blues is Seasonal Affective Disorder.

"Some individuals, as you reach the winter months, from October to March roughly, when there is less sunlight available ... some people are just not getting that minimal amount of natural sunlight that they need to make Vitamin D in their own bodies, and also just help with their mood," Loos said.

Financial problems also can rise to the surface during gift-giving time.

"This time of year, people begin to question financial budgets," Loos said. "They want to be as generous as they can be. They have to pay for it."

People sometimes just put too much pressure on themselves at the holidays, and the blues hit, Loos said.

"That maybe becomes a source of guilt or a source of isolation, where a person is thinking, 'I don't want to ruin it for my kids,' or 'I don't want to ruin it for the rest of my family,' or 'I can't fake it any more,' so they start to pull back, start to isolate, which makes them feel left out, feel lonely," he said.

Having all the family together at the holidays can be stressful, too.

"I think sometimes people can put a lot of unrealistic stress on themselves," he said. "They think they're going to have this family get-together and everything is going to go absolutely perfect. ... And it doesn't happen.

"It becomes an all-or-nothing thing. If it's not perfect, it's a disaster. If there's stress within families for 11 months of the year, it's going to be there for this time as well.

"Then the focus is whatever you have in common ... focus on enjoying something together. No family's perfect. We all have our frustrations and foibles and hurt feelings. But if you can, focus on that moment in time to enjoy each other's company."

Still, sometimes the holiday blues just don't go away. That's a sign it might be more than just the holiday blues. If that's the case, there is help available.

"Some of the things that it may be a warning sign -- not just the season -- is if there's a real pattern to this, and it seems to be getting worse," Loos said. "If you're feeling you're in quicksand, you're just dragging -- or you're getting more worked up, more anxious -- that is definitely a time to reach out.

"I always recommend first -- because of the stigma that mental health is different from physical health -- talk to your family physician, your nurse practitioner. If you do have someone that you are close to in the faith community, definitely reach out and talk to someone."

High Plains Mental Health Center also is available for those seeking help.

"Bottom line, when you call us, there is no obligation," Loos said.

High Plains has a sliding fee scale and accepts most insurance plans. There is a 24-hour helpline to call, (785) 628-2871 locally, or (800) 432-0333.

"No. 1 thing, so many people seem to suffer silently," Loos said. "So many people go through tough times that maybe wouldn't have to be as tough if they would reach out for help to someone."