Beating the Holiday Blues for Seniors
The “Holiday Season” – that time from Thanksgiving through New Year’s – is supposed to be happy times filled with get-togethers between friends, neighbors, and family. They are a time of celebration and joy; a time to remind us all of the brilliant, wonderful things life has bestowed upon us.
Unfortunately, for many people, this special time of the year turns out to be a time when joy is replaced with sadness, love with anger, and contentment with anxiety. The demands on each of us during the “Holidays” are enormous. Not only are we expected to continue to work each day, but now we must figure out a way to find some extra money from an already thin economy and bank account to attempt to keep up with the Joneses in gift buying.
We begin to lose sleep, eat poorly, and stop whatever exercise we were doing prior to the holiday arriving. All this “change of lifestyle” moves us closer and closer to the “Holiday Blues.” Add to that the often found situation of our elders living alone, without their life-long spouse, and you have a situation primed for disastrous effects.
With that in mind, below are 10 Tips for Fighting the Holiday Blues by Mark Sichel, published in Psychology Today (2009):
- Be reasonable with your schedule. Do not overbook yourself into a state of exhaustion – this makes people cranky, irritable, and depressed.
- Decide upon your priorities and stick to them. Organize your time.
- Remember, no matter what our plans, the holidays do not automatically take away feelings of aloneness, sadness, frustration, anger, and fear.
- Be careful about resentments related to holidays past. Declare an amnesty with whichever family member or friend you are feeling past resentments. Do not feel it is helpful or intimate to tell your relative every resentment on your laundry list of grievances. Don’t let your relative do that to you, either.
- Don’t expect the holidays to be just as they were when you were a child. They NEVER are. YOU are not the same as when you were a child, and no one else in the family is either.
- Feeling like you are under scheduled or under planned for the holidays? Volunteer to serve dinner at a homeless shelter. Work with any number of groups that help underprivileged or hospitalized children at the holidays. There are many, many opportunities for doing community service. No one can be depressed when they are doing community service.
- Plan unstructured, low-cost fun holiday activities: window-shop and look at the holiday decorations. Look at people’s Christmas lighting on their homes, take a trip to the countryside, etc. – the opportunities are endless.
- If you drink, do not let the holidays become a reason for over-indulging and hangovers. This will exacerbate your depression and anxiety. Contrary to popular opinion, alcohol is a depressant. “People with depression shouldn’t drink alcohol,” says Sherry Rogers, M.D., in her 1997 book on “Depression.”
- Give yourself a break; create time for yourself to do things YOU love and need to do for your physical and mental wellness: aerobic exercise, yoga, massage, spiritual practices, taking long fast walks or any activity that calms you down and gives you a better perspective on what is important in your life.
- Most of all, if you find yourself feeling blue just remember: The choice is always yours: The sky is partly sunny, and the glass is half full and revel in our gratitude for our bounty, health, hope, and our courage to face each day with hope and determination.