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The holiday season can be the loneliest time of the year, especially during the month of December. Even though the research refutes the notion that the highest rate of suicide occurs in the month of December, many people do experience the Holiday Blues because of the loss of a loved one, exhaustion, separation from family and close friends, feelings of failure due to unmet goals and expectations, significant changes and increased stress. Some may even experience the Holiday Blues because they cannot afford to go Christmas shopping.

This year has been particularly difficult for many people because of a failed economy resulting in the loss of homes and jobs. Just this week U.S. companies cut 240,000 jobs in October 2008, with the unemployment rate spiking to 6.5%, the highest since 1994. Therefore, it may be harder for people to handle the stress of such events, especially around the holidays. The war in Iraq and the potential for war around the globe has also caused many families to be separated from loved ones either through death or distance at this time of the year. These events have impacted the world and may make people more at risk of experiencing the Holiday Blues and more chronic mental health problems, especially if they are already vulnerable.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, there are a number of signs and symptoms that signal the presence of the Holiday Blues, such as: headaches, inability to sleep or sleeping too much, changes in appetite causing weight loss or gain, agitation and anxiety, excessive or inappropriate feelings of guilt, diminished ability to think clearly or concentrate, and decreased interest in activities that usually bring pleasure. If these symptoms persist, however, one may be experiencing a depressive disorder.

While the country appears to be more hopeful about its future after the recent election where Senator Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States, it is going to take time for the economic picture all over the world to improve.  Therefore, it is important to discuss strategies for overcoming the Holiday Blues:

* Acknowledge your pain and do not suffer in silence.

* Connect with a good support system.

* Connect to your spiritual source.

* Forgive yourself and others for the mistakes of the past.

* Do not focus on what went wrong rather, focus on what went right.

* Set realistic goals and expectations for the coming year.

If your life has been shaken up this year, create a new way of celebrating the holidays, but do not forget the real reason for the season. Do something special for yourself that will not cause financial strain, such as take a long hot bubble bath or get together with special friends and family.

Do something for others, such as volunteer time at a shelter, hospital, church, nursing home, or senior center. Be sure to maintain a healthy diet and get sufficient rest and exercise. If symptoms continue to persist, seek the consultation of a professional mental health professional to assist you during this critical time.

“Living in the past may cause paralysis that may prevent one from successfully walking into the future” Gloria Morrow, Ph.D. Gloria Morrow, Ph.D. Licensed Clinical Psychologist/Author Too Broken to be Fixed? A Spiritual Guide to Inner Healing Word of Life Christian Bookstores, Los Angeles, CA Zahra’s Books & things, Inglewood, CA

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