Steamboat Springs At a time of year when it is supposed to be joyous, the holidays are anything but for some people who experience what is called the "holiday blues."
The holidays can be a tough time for people because of a combination of reasons, said Carol Gordon, a social worker in Routt County who coordinates a bereavement program.
Anyone feeling depressed or suicidal can call a 24-hour hotline in Routt County. The telephone number is 870-4412. Some helpful tips on how to get through the holidays: Keep expectations of the holiday season manageable by not trying to make the holiday "the best ever." Try to set realistic goals for yourself and pace yourself. Remember that the holiday season does not automatically 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. Let go of the past. Do not be disappointed if your holidays are not like they used to be. Life brings changes. Each holiday season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way.
Gordon cites a variety of reasons, such as the death of a loved one, unreasonable holiday expectations, financial stress, the weather and overindulging in food and alcohol that can lead to depression.
"The statistics show that the time of year when most suicides occur is more during the summer months than during the holidays," Gordon said. "That is not to say that suicides don't happen during the holidays.
"The biggest thing is there is a big difference in people's expectations of being happy at this time of the year and how they are really feeling. The gap is especially wide for people who have experienced the death of someone close, are ill themselves or have clinical depression."
Holiday expectations can also lead to depression, said Linda Mitchum, a volunteer coordinator for the Visiting Nurse Association.
"People must keep their expectations manageable," she said.
Mitchum said she believes the media can play a role in raising expectations of the holiday season that are unattainable.
"The media is hyping that people should make this the best Christmas ever when it is not possible to do it," she said. "We build up for this one day for months and weeks and then it is over. That is a factor."
Finances that get out of hand, such as high credit card bills, also can play a role in making a person feel bad during the holidays, Gordon said.
Some people can also get the blues from not getting enough sun during the winter months, which is called seasonal affective disorder.
"Some people, because of a lack of sunlight, experience a chemical change in their brains," she said. "This can be alleviated by light therapy."
A few hours of exposure to intense light can relieve symptoms of depression.
Parties, fixtures of the holiday season, can lead to excessive alcohol consumption and overeating.
"The hangover from eating and drinking can lead to low moods," Gordon said. "Overeating can make a person feel guilty about being overweight. It affects their self-esteem and their moods. There is also a physical effect on the brain from alcohol."
Mitchum said, "Alcohol is a depressant."
The most important thing that a person who may be feeling down for the holidays can do is to talk to someone, Gordon said.
"Talking to someone is the best prevention there is," she said. "They need to talk to someone who understands. It could be a family member or someone else.
"But it is important for the person to talk to someone who understands. A person who does not understand can increase a person's sense of isolation. It could make the pain of depression worse."
If a person who is depressed believes they do not know of anyone who they can talk to, a 24-hour hotline, 870-1244, is available, she said.
Mitchum also believes it is important for people to help out others during the holiday season.
"The people who are not depressed need to reach out," she said. "People need to think of others that they know who might have lost someone or may be feeling down and try to connect with them.
"It is the spirit of the holiday season to reach out and help others who are less fortunate."