While the holidays present many opportunities for joy, they can also bring feelings of sadness, commonly referred to as the “holiday blues.” People often feel pressure to enjoy themselves during the holiday season, leading them to put on a happy face rather than trying to gain a deeper understanding of why they are depressed.
This season typically revolves around gathering with close friends and family members, yet many people feel isolated and alone during what is, for others, a time of high spirits and goodwill. This is particularly true for older adults. Age-related circumstances, lack of mobility, and loss of loved ones can all increase seniors’ risk of facing the holiday blues.
How are the Holiday Blues Triggered?
Although advanced age offers the benefits of wisdom and experience, there are almost always losses along the way. Spouses, partners, and friends fall ill or pass away as we grow older. Our energy levels and mobility also decrease, as does our ability to perform many activities independently. Even our surroundings change over time, leading to feelings of loneliness and isolation in places that once felt familiar.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, seniors who suffer from social isolation have a greater risk of experiencing depression. Watching as others embrace the idea of “togetherness” during the holiday season can heighten this sense of loneliness and increase the risk of falling into depression. Understanding why and how this occurs enables us to better help older adults in our life ward off isolation and depression during the holiday season.
Here are three of the most common triggers of the holiday blues:
- Living Far Away from Family
For seniors whose family members live far away, loneliness and melancholy feelings often come to the forefront as the holidays approach. Of course, it’s hard for people of any age to enjoy the holidays if they must do so on their own. Knowing friends and neighbors are spending time with their cherished family members can make this loneliness even harder to cope with.
- Loss of a Loved One
Seniors who are surrounded by their children, grandchildren, and other family members throughout the holiday season can suffer from the holiday blues. Those who have recently lost a spouse, close friend, or other loved one may struggle as this time of year highlights their absence. Holiday traditions can also stir up memories that are difficult to handle, especially if this is the first holiday season without a special loved one.
- Age-Related Difficulties
Seniors who once loved the holiday season may find it difficult to realize they can no longer engage in the traditions and activities that once brought them joy. Dwindling mobility, loss of strength and coordination, or pain from arthritis can cause frustration as well as an increased awareness of the aging process. Instead of embracing the joyful experiences the holidays have to offer, elderly adults may spend their time mourning the loss of their physical capabilities and dwelling on negative thoughts about what they believe they are missing out on.
Understanding why depression may occur around this time of year is the first step in helping prevent the holiday blues. If any of the above triggers are present in your loved one’s life, you may want to start formulating a plan to promote their mental and emotional well-being this holiday season.