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Use the reason for the season to beat the holiday blues

December 21, 2012

Dr. Juan Torres

By emphasizing the reason for the season, a lot of the stress associated with the holidays can be avoided, advised a top county health official.

“There is no perfect holiday, no perfect family,” Auglaize County Medical Director Dr. Juan Torres said. “When you accept that, you will have a better holiday.”

He also recommended not overspending.

“You can’t buy love with gifts,” Torres said.

He said this time of year, people can suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or the holiday blues.

Unrealistic expectations of what Christmas should be can be partly to blame, Torres said. When adding the economic burden of buying gifts and the fear of disappointment in giving the wrong gift, coupled with the idealization of the season many have for this time of year along with the pressure to be merry, it can become a lot.

“People feel like they need to be happy and smiling,” Torres said. “It creates a conflict in their minds with how they feel and how they think they are supposed to feel. They feel guilty because they don’t feel happy and then feel more sad.”

He said for those who had a bad Christmas the previous year, there’s a desire for this one to be better.

“They want to create this fantasy holiday,” Torres said.

In addition to already feeling depressed or sick during the holidays, Torres said easy availability of lots of high calorie foods and alcoholic beverages just compound the problem as the foods add calories and the alcohol acts as a depressant after the initial buzz.

SAD, which impacts people between September and March, is caused by less light, with those suffering from it becoming clinically depressed during this time of year.

“They just can’t be happy,” Torres said.

For those who think they may be suffering from SAD, Torres suggested they try to get at least 20 minutes of sunshine each day. In the winter they can do that by sitting by a window when possible or going out for lunch. Sometimes medical assistance may be necessary.

No matter what the reason someone may be feeling a little blue this season, Torres told them to put the emphasis on volunteering.

“Help someone else,” Torres said. “Take the thinking off of yourself and put it on someone else. That’s what Christmas is all about. It does not always have to be a gift. Giving your time can be better than buying something.”

He also advised those who are feeling sad to avoid being alone and spend the time with family and friends.

“Those without a significant other have the hardest time,” Torres said.

Although some believe the risk of suicide increases during this time of year, Torres said there are actually fewer suicides in December because people are more interactive with each other.

The hardest time tends to be after New Year’s Day has passed, the people are no longer all together celebrating, yet it is still winter and the loneliness really sets in.

Men are more likely to commit suicide, but around the holidays, it is women who suffer from depression the most.

For everyone, Torres recommended finding time to exercise and stay active during the holidays.

“Thirty minutes every day is the best stimulant that exists,” Torres said.

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