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How to battle a bout of holiday blues

5 Dec 2008 | Lance Cpl. Monica C. Erickson

The holiday season is just around the corner, and as people begin to look forward to presents, relaxation, delicious food and being with family, many people don’t realize depression is a common sentiment during the normally jolly season.

Holiday blues can hit anyone, especially service members, or their families, said Lt. j.g. David Nelson, the Headquarters Battalion chaplain.

“I advise people not to drink [alcohol] when feeling depressed,” said Peter Morris, the Family Advocacy Program branch manager. “Alcohol is a depressant and will make you feel worse in the long run.”

People who get overwhelmed with holiday stress, or those who have nobody to share their holiday with are more likely to experience depression.

The overwhelming feeling hits some people when they go over their budget when buying gifts, or others who can barely find enough time to relax in their jam-packed schedule, Nelson explained.

“People forget to just enjoy the holidays,” said Nelson, a Piedmont S.C., native. “People just get exhausted and they lose the joy in the holiday season.

“I have a saying. It goes; make the main thing about the main thing. Don’t get caught up in the simple stuff,” he added.

The Web site, http://www. lists ways to cope with holiday depression, which includes sticking to a budget, planning ahead and creating a schedule to ensure everything runs smoothly, learn to say no and only take on wanted tasks, don’t abandon healthy habits, and seek professional help if the holiday blues become too much to handle.

Depression can hit more severely in service members who are spending their holiday season in their barracks room alone, said Nelson.

“The best way to combat this depression is to find a support group,” Nelson said. “It doesn’t have to be from a church, but just a group of friends that all share a common interest that you can hang out with during the holidays.

“The worst thing is to isolate themselves,” continued Nelson. “This is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but they feel like crud. They need to get out and enjoy their time off work.”

The Combat Center and surrounding community host programs to help homesick Marines and sailors. Information, Tickets and Tours sells discounted tickets to a variety of places including Knotts Berry Farm and cabins at Lake Havasu, Ariz.

“People who lived in a city might get depressed if they are stuck in Twentynine Palms,” said Morris, a Yucca Valley, Calif., native. “I suggest they get on a bus, or drive to Palms Springs [Calif.] or Cathedral City [Calif.] so it reminds them a little bit more like home.”

The Adopt-a-Marine program is also available during Thanksgiving and Christmas day, where families from Southern California are opening their homes to Marines and sailors for the holidays.

Service members also have a high chance of becoming depressed after the holiday season, especially if they went home and spent time with family and friends.

“We see a lot of depressed Marines when they start coming back from the holidays,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Fernando Bobadilla, the leading petty officer at the mental health clinic at Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital. “The get back to the desert and homesickness just kicks in. They miss home, their family, friends and they don’t want to be here.”

Bobadilla, a Subic Bay, Philippines, native, says the best way to get over the homesickness is to call home and speak with their family to find an outlet to release the pent up emotion.

“It may be hard in some males, but confiding in a friend about your feelings also helps,” continued Bobadilla.

If the holiday blues become too much to handle, talk to a chaplain or visit the counseling center for further help.


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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms