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Chris Mata, director of outpatient behavioral health services at Guadalupe Regional Medical Center, said each year her clinic sees as much as a 40 percent increase in patients between Thanksgiving and January.
"A lot of what we see is an increase in stress over finances and people also want to get everything done and there's just not enough time," she said. She said the common dream of a "perfect Christmas" is actually harmful, as people pack their already crowded schedules full of events and spend money that isn't there in order to find the ideal gift."Nowadays teenagers will come to you wanting a Wii, an iPod, a new cell phone and when you look at the whole Christmas list it's $5,000 or $6,000.That's not realistic for anyone I know," Mata said.
"Sometimes people who experience losses during the year feel like giving up on the holiday," Mata said.
Mata said feelings of suicide and clinical depression can occur year round, but some people feel down only during the winter months. This kind of depression is called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, marked by wintertime feelings of hopelessness or depression. Unlike clinical depression, SAD is more common in northern climates and seems to be caused by a decrease in light and an increase in dreary weather. "SAD comes in the winter months when the weather is not as bright, people aren't outside as much and the sun goes down earlier," Mata said. Whatever the reason for holiday blues, she said it is important for people to control their thinking by focusing on positive thoughts and take time to relax with some favorite activities.She said it's helpful to do what you would to cheer yourself up during the rest of the year, like listening to favorite music.Though it may be difficult, Mata said it is important for people to stay active, celebrate with family and seek counseling if needed. "When people are depressed, a lot of times their motivation is low and that makes it difficult for them to participate in holiday activities," she said.