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Using alcohol or popular illicit drugs compounds seasonal depression, stress

By Sun Advocate

As December nears, the air is filled with holiday cheer and Christmas anticipation.
For some Carbon County resident, though, the season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s can be the most stressful and depressing time of the year.
Holidays are a time for family, bustling activity, gift-giving and celebration. But the joy of the season can bring with it an emotional and financial price tag.
Richard Mainord, supervisor for clinical services with Four Corners Mental Health, said the holidays can lead to increased drug and alcohol abuse
Mainord indicated that, in Carbon County as well as the rest of the nation, youth and adults are turning to mood altering drugs as a way to escape life’s pressures.
However, Mainord reminds residents that using alcohol or popular drugs like meth can only compound seasonal depression and stress.
“People need to keep their better sense about them,” he commented. “Using alcohol or drugs to manage stress is something that just makes the problem worse.”
Mainord said youth should especially be aware that alcohol or drugs are not necessary for an enjoyable holiday.
Family members should also be mindful that holiday depression can have ill effects on their loved ones, he added. If depression become unmanageable, appointments can be made for crisis situations. For information, residents should contact Four Corners Mental Health at 637-2358.Drugs and alcohol are not the only cause of holiday depression.
According to the National Mental Health Association, many factors can cause the holiday blues, including stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations, over-commercialization, financial constraints and the inability to be with one’s family and friends.
“The demands of shopping, parties, family reunions, and house guests also contribute to feelings of tension. People who do not become depressed may develop other stress responses, such as headaches, excessive drinking, over-eating and difficulty sleeping,” pointed out the NMHA. “Even more people experience post-holiday let down after January 1. This can result from disappointments during the preceding months compounded with the excess fatigue and stress.”
The change in season has also been considered to be a holiday-depression culprit for many. Recent studies indicate that some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which results from fewer hours of sunlight as the days grow shorter during the winter months, asserts the NMHA. Phototherapy, a treatment involving a few hours of exposure to intense light, is effective in relieving depressive symptoms in patients with SAD, added the mental health association. Other studies on the benefits of phototherapy found that exposure to early morning sunlight was effective in relieving seasonal depression.
Many people can also get bogged down during the holidays by self-evaluation, loneliness, reflection on past failures and anxiety about an uncertain future, according to the NMHA.
To keep a better balance, the NMHA recommends the following for coping with stress and depression during the holiday season:
•Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable. Try to set realistic goals and set a reasonable pace. Organize time by making a list and prioritizing the important activities. Do not put entire focus on just one day (i.e., Christmas Day) remember it is a season of holiday sentiment and activities can be spread out (time-wise) to lessen stress and increase enjoyment. Be realistic about what can and cannot be done.
Remember the holiday season does not banish reasons for feeling sad or lonely; there is room for these feelings to be present, even if the person chooses not to express them.
Leave “yesteryear” in the past and look toward the future. Life brings changes. Each season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. Don’t set today up for failure by comparing it with the “good ol’ days.”
Do something for someone else. Try volunteering some time to help others.
Enjoy activities that are free, such as driving around to look at holiday decorations; going window shopping without buying; making a snowperson with children.
Be aware that excessive drinking will only increase feelings of depression.
Try something new. Celebrate the holidays in a new way.
•Spend time with supportive and caring people. Reach out and make new friends or contact someone that has not been heard from for awhile.
•Save some personal time to recharge. Let others share responsibility of activities.
The biggest expenditure Carbon County residents should make during the holidays is with love. By minimizing or eliminating post-holiday debt, Carbon County residents can enjoy a more depression-free holiday and look forward to a stress-free new year.

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