December 19, 2005


Holidays don't have to stress you

A story published today in the Muskogee Phoenix notes that even though Christmas may be the happiest holiday of the year for most people, the holidays are a source of depression for others.

There are reasons for the “holiday blues” and ways to avoid them, according to Melissa Ratterree, a psychotherapist with Muskogee Regional Medical Center’s outpatient Pavilion counseling and referral center.
“At the end of the year, people tend to review and look at life,” she said. “Sometimes it’s easier to focus on the negative versus the positive. I try to re-direct people toward the positive.”
Ratterree said stress can accumulate until a person gets to an impasse where they can’t deal with it.
Single people are at risk for holiday blues when they face what Ratterree called “the four horsemen;” Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and Valentines Day. Elderly people may face similar problems because their families are far away.
Ratterree said anyone with holiday blues for a few weeks may need to consider seeking treatment. Other than that, there are things people can do to take care of themselves.
“People can ask themselves: ‘What can I control, and what can I not control,’” she said. “And they need to be aware of diet, sleep, exercise and spending. They need to remember they can say ‘no’ to people and activities. They can take time to take care of themselves.”
People with holiday blues can also find activities where they can enjoy other people, whether it’s church activities or just going to watch a parade.
According to the National Mental Health Association (NMHA), factors that cause holiday blues include: Unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization, financial constraints, parties, family reunions and house guests.
Some people do not become depressed but may develop other stress responses, such as: Headaches, excessive drinking, over-eating and difficulty sleeping, according to the NMHA.
Janet Petty, prevention coordinator with Bill Willis Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Center, said loneliness can be a factor.
“Sometimes people can’t be with families because of distance; because we have so many extended families,” she said.
Petty said people get too caught up in the Christmas rush and become over-stressed. Or, they may be thinking about the loss of a loved one. Anyone with an emotional investment in old traditions that have been lost can create new ones, Petty said.
“This might be a good time to call someone you’ve lost contact with, like an old school friend.”
Avoiding holiday blues can be as simple as slowing down and thinking about the things in life we do enjoy, Petty said.
“Our lifestyle is too fast, and we don’t take time to enjoy family and friends,” she said. “We’ve glamorized this time of year. Sit back and reflect; there is a reason we have this season.”