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Avoiding The Holiday Blues

Avoiding The Holiday Blues

GLORIA PENNER (Host): It's that time of the year again -- time for presents, parties and putting up decorations. But what happens when the holidays take a toll on your health and well being? KPBS reporter Sharon Heilbrunn brings us a story about coping with the holiday blues.

SHARON HEILBRUNN (KPBS Reporter): It's the most wonderful time of the year. Or, is it? In this culture of commercialism, the high expectations of the holidays can sometimes be more of a drag than a celebration.

DAVID PETERS (San Diego-based family therapist): The holiday blues is what we call the feeling of sadness, or isolation, or the disappointment during the holidays. We're at a time when commercial television and the popular culture pressure us almost to have a great time, to be happy, to make merry, to be filled with love and happiness for the season, and yet it's not always the case. We have commercials, and billboards, and music and radio all pressuring us to make purchases, and to celebrate with a material holiday. And this can bring about a sense of emptiness, as people rush store to store trying to fulfill happiness or fulfill their children's wishes with material purchases. And then inevitably, these don't bring happiness. They bring stress.

HEILBRUNN: According to David Peters, San Diego-Based family therapist, it's also not uncommon for people to feel lonely, or isolated during the holiday season. Often, it's because people are chasing unrealistic expectations.

PETERS: The need to have the best holiday ever is one of the greatest sources of holiday blues. We should all try and completely forget about having the best holiday ever. You can't top every holiday with a bigger and better holiday, and what are you going to do, but buy more, drink more, celebrate more, eat more, go to more parties. This is preposterous. The way to have the best holiday ever is to have a humble holiday.

While the holiday blues are usually temporary, feelings can sometimes become more severe.

PETERS: For some people, the holiday blues can bring them to the brink of a real depression. And then it's serious. This would occur if you find yourself purposefully isolating -- alone, sad, feeling the urge to cry, unable to get tasks done. Then you're looking at signs of a possible mild depression.

Peters says that the best way to mitigate the holiday blues is to find what really makes you happy, and gives you meaning, during the holiday season -- whether its finding time for certain family and friends, volunteering, or starting a new tradition.

PETERS: Make your focus very narrow. Find your own celebration. Don't try and follow what the culture tells you to do, find what's important for you to do and keep your celebration narrow and meaningful.

HEILBRUNN: Other strategies that Peters recommends to combat depression over the holidays includes regular exercise, limiting alcohol consumption and emphasizing your own health and well being. We want to know how you manage the stress of the holidays. Log onto and leave us a comment. For KPBS, I’m Sharon Heilbrunn.

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