Holiday blues -- a preventable state of mind

  • Published
  • By Laura London
  • 49th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Holiday blues are more of a state of mind than a clinical diagnosis, according to mental health professionals at the Life Skills Center, but such a state of mind can lead to more severe consequences.

"It's going to depend on the individual, but it's something that can get pretty serious and can lead to a downward spiral," said Capt. Mikel Merritt, psychologist and the Alcohol and Drug Prevention Treatment element chief at the Life Skills Center. "The more people isolate themselves and cut themselves off, the worse it can get. It can lead to some more serious problems."

"It can get pretty serious, of course," said Tech. Sgt. Bobbie Smith, mental health technician at the Life Skills Center. "If they're drinking and get behind the wheel, that can be a problem for a lot of people."

Sergeant Smith said drinking is one sign a person might be struggling with holiday blues. Another sign, she said, is if a person who is usually outgoing becomes withdrawn, "like if they're down and depressed ... they're not their usual self, maybe avoiding going to holiday parties and things like that."

"I think some of the biggest things noticeable are when people start to isolate," said Captain Merritt. "Isolation is the biggest thing, if they aren't engaged in usual pleasurable activities like exercise.

"Really, almost anybody's going to be susceptible. The more people are isolated and not with families, it is going to increase the likelihood they will experience some mild depression during the holidays. People with fewer friends, social connections will be more susceptible as well."

"Money issues come into play a lot of times, especially if you're one of the folks who likes to shop and buy gifts for everybody," Sergeant Smith said. "It gets expensive, so that can come into play as well."

Sergeant Smith encourages those suffering from holiday blues to get involved with activities through the Airman and Family Readiness Center, local churches or charities.
"I think the best thing is, if someone is in that frame of mind, try and get them active doing things which don't cost money," Sergeant Smith advised. "If they don't have family here, try and sponsor an Airman."

"I think the biggest thing is just going to be interacting with them, inviting them to engage in different activities," said Captain Merritt. "This is a great time of year to get involved in charitable activities ... ensuring the younger Airmen have people they can spend holidays with and they're not just being left alone."

In the absence of family or support systems, Sergeant Smith encourages people facing the blues alone to seek counseling through the Life Skills Center, with chaplains or at private counseling centers. Severe enough cases may require prescription medication. "It depends on the individual cases, really," she said.

Captain Merritt said the holiday blues are probably no more widespread at Holloman than any other military base.

"We've got a lot of people who are apart from their families and that makes it difficult," Captain Merritt said. "But at the same time, I think we have a strong and responsive community and I think that's a big help."