Does a white Christmas make you blue?

Does a white Christmas make you blue?
It's a time of year for rejoicing, for celebrating good times with family and friends, for sharing gifts and meals and spreading joy.

At least, it's supposed to be.

The upcoming Christmas and New Year's holidays that heighten the spirits of so many people can also do just the opposite.

The reasons for experiencing the blues during a white Christmas are as varied as the individual, according to Veronica Schmidt, a licensed clinical social worker with the Sioux Valley Vermillion Medical Center.

"There's a host of things that can contribute to feeling depressed," she said. "There's the financial stress; often times there is spending beyond a family's means to try to have the perfect holiday. And often people place some unrealistic expectations upon themselves, trying to have that picture-perfect holiday. They may not achieve what they had hoped, and will feel let down by that."

The stress of family relationships can also affect people's mood this time of the year.

"It's not uncommon to have family members get together that haven't been under one roof in many years," Schmidt said, "and a lot of old, unresolved issues may surface that have been laying stagnant for a long time."

People can also just get worn out trying to keep up with the hectic activities of this time of the year.

"Fatigue certainly can lead to depression," she said. "There can easily be a lot of overscheduling going on this time of year, with people either attending holiday parties or hosting them, along with children's Christmas programs and college graduations and other activities. It doesn't take long for it to all pile up."

It's not difficult for people to eventually feel overwhelmed under these circumstances, she said, which

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can lead to more problems, ranging from sleep problems to eating or drinking too much.

"Christmas is a time of great expectations, and that can involve one's financial situation, their family, or just general in nature, such as personal happiness," said Mel Harrington of Lutheran Social Services. "When people are without � if they are away from family or have lost family members, or if they can't financially provide like they think they should for their family, that can eventually lead to depression.

"It also a time of the year when everybody expects you to be happy and joyous," he said, "and if you're not, it's much more accentuated than other times of the year. It's just kind of like a lightening rod around Christmas."

A loss of loved one may also trigger depression during the holiday season, Schmidt said.

"It may be the first Christmas without them, it may be the 10th, but it still has that sting to it. There's that empty chair, and families need to be able to talk about that person, and be able to reminisce. That can be very therapeutic."

One way to battle holiday depression, Schmidt said, is to strive to keep one's life at a normal pace.

"Simplifying what's going on around you and being able to prioritize what's important can certainly help," she said. "One should try to prioritize what's important, and what activities you need to participate in and what you can back off from to see what's contributing to the depression. So many times during this time of the year, one is out of their usual routine, and that eventually trigger depressive episodes."

It doesn't help, Harrington said, that Christmas falls during the dead of winter.

"I really think there's something to be said about the lack of light and mobility in the north country," he said.

To keep from being gripped by the holiday blues, Harrington said, it's important for people to plan ahead. "Most people know what's coming � for example if they've had a loss, it's important to do a pre-empetive strike and focus on other issues instead of those trigger issues," he said. "It might be taking up a new hobby or getting involved in an exercise program."

He said one also should look to institutions that can lend help, such as churches or professional counselors.

Schmidt said talk therapy is an effective way of giving people suffering from depression the help they need.

"Through talking out the situation that's may be stressful, we can look at it from a different, healthier perspective," she said. "A lot of times one can receive the help they need by being able to voice their concerns in a confidential, safe environment."

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