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Seek help for unhappy holidays

Not everyone is happy during the holidays. In fact, there are a good number of people for whom the season of joy is an especially difficult time.

While we celebrate wholeheartedly with all those who delight in the festive holiday spirit, we’d like to put in a word for those of our neighbors who are hurting at this time of year.

The holidays bring all sorts of winter fun, but they also bring increased financial pressures, more (and not always easy) contact with family, and elevated consumption of alcohol.

Depression and domestic abuse become more common at the holidays, as do physical problems such as heart attacks.

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Those who experience sadness, violence or illness during the holidays should know they are not alone. And help is available.

For example, the Associated Press reports that December and January are the deadliest months for heart disease.

There are lots of reasons for this, but among the culprits the AP names are stress, rich holiday foods, interrupted exercise routines and delays in seeking treatment for chest pains during the holidays.

According to the American Heart Association, most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort.

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The person may experience chest and other upper-body discomfort, shortness of breath, cold sweats, nausea or lightheadedness.

Unfortunately, several of these symptoms can also be caused by a good holiday party, so people tend to wait longer than they might at other times of the year before seeking help.

It often takes a spouse or other close person to fully appreciate how serious the situation is and dial 911.

Also common at this time of year are bouts with depression. The holidays can be an especially tough time to admit to feeling blah.

Still, for those who face emotional difficulty at this time of year, the Mayo Clinic offers 12 handy tips for those suffering holiday stress or depression.

Among the tips: forget about perfection, acknowledge your feelings, seek support, be realistic and seek professional help if you need it.

For the full list with explanations of each item visit the Mayo Clinic Web site at www.mayoclinic.com and enter the search words “holiday stress.”

Finally, among the most difficult problems for people to seek help with is domestic abuse. Especially during the holidays, when every family is supposed to be happy and peaceful, the temptation to hide abuse and pretend things are fine can be pronounced.

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Domestic abuse affects all walks of life – from young to old, from poor to wealthy. And it is often aggravated by alcohol and stress – two holiday perennials.

For help – whether for yourself or for another – call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-SAFE, or (800) 799-7233. The hotline provides crisis intervention and referrals. Of course, in an emergency, just dial 911.

If violence, sadness or illness are part of your holiday, we hope you will reach out for appropriate help. It often takes courage to do so, but it may mean many more years of good cheer.