The holidays should be a time of joy, good cheer and high hopes for the new year. Shopping for gifts, decorating and preparing for get-togethers with family and friends are usually anticipated events that accompany the season. But many people, especially older adults and caregivers of all ages, experience the holiday blues during this special time of the year.
Older adults can have an especially difficult time with the holidays for many reasons. The recent loss of an important person or the memory of a traumatic event, such as a serious illness, can dampen holiday spirits. The inability to perform everyday tasks and holiday traditions, such as preparing a large holiday meal, can make the upcoming events difficult to handle and may cause the person to focus on what they used to do. Others may feel isolated or forgotten as the season reminds them of more enjoyable past celebrations. For others, just getting together with family members can be stressful or depressing.
Whatever the reason, there are ways older adults can overcome holiday depression. Professionals from Barnabas Health Hospice and Home Care offer the following suggestions to help ease the stress of the holiday season:
- Keep your expectations reasonable. The holidays do not have the power to magically turn sadness into joy. Don’t be disappointed if the holidays are not like they used to be. Life brings changes. Each holiday season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way.
- Take some time for yourself. Allow yourself some time during the holidays to do things that you enjoy, such as taking a walk or listening to music. Give others the same space as well. Having time alone allows you to think about your feelings.
- Don’t overdo it. Avoid overeating and excessive alcohol consumption when feeling depressed. Drinking too much alcohol will make you more depressed.
- Make plans. If you expect to be home alone during the holidays, consider doing volunteer work at a local hospital or shelter, or make plans with a friend who will also be spending the time alone. Helping others will make you feel better about yourself.
The holidays can be tough on caregivers of all ages too.
Preparing for the normal demands of the holiday season can be even more stressful when the care of a family member or friend is involved. Here are some useful hints for caregivers during the holidays and every day of the year.
- Recognize your own importance. Before you can properly care for someone else, you need to take care of your own physical and emotional needs. Eat a nutritious diet and get an adequate amount of sleep. Most importantly, do not neglect your own health as you get wrapped up in the holiday season.
- Ask others for help. Don’t be afraid to ask family members or friends to lend a hand, especially during the holidays. Ask them to come spend time at home with your loved one or take him/her out for the day. This break will give you a chance to go shopping, attend a holiday party or just spend time alone.
- Seek professional guidance. Caregiver support groups provide an opportunity to discuss your concerns and frustrations with others experiencing the same emotions. Community calendars or health sections of your local newspaper may list when and where caregiver support groups meet.
- Recognize that daily routines change, especially during the holidays. During the holidays, when things become more hectic, allow yourself more time to accomplish daily tasks. Worrying about getting everything done can be as stressful as actually doing it. And remember, the holidays will end and a normal routine will resume.