Dealing with holiday blues
Take care of yourself and lower your stress
December 21, 2010
The holiday season can be a time of joy, cheer, parties and family gatherings. However, older adults may not be as excited about winter holidays as they used to be. They might be feeling financial or social pressures or they can be lonely or grieving lost family and friends. These feelings can be intensified by talk about family closeness and love.
Whatever the cause, the "holiday blues" are part of the range of normal feelings. By accepting the negative feelings, as well as taking proactive steps, older adults can get through the season and still have fun. The Mayo Clinic recommends a few simple tips:
- Acknowledge your feelings. Realize that it's normal to feel sadness, even during celebrations. It is alright to take time to cry or express your feelings. You cannot force yourself to be happy just because it's the holiday season.
- Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek community, religious or other social events that can offer support and companionship, or volunteer to help others to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
- Be realistic. The holidays don't have to be perfect or just like last year. Choose a few traditions and rituals to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones.
- Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don't live up to all your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion.
- Stick to a budget. Before you go shopping for gifts and food, decide how much money you can afford to spend and then stick to your budget.
- Learn to say no. Saying yes when you really don't want to do something can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can't participate in every gathering or activity.
- Don't abandon healthy habits. Overindulging only adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don't go overboard. Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.
- Avoid alcohol. Excessive drinking will only increase feelings of depression.
- Take time out for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces your stress level.
While it's natural to feel stressed or sad around the holidays, persistent sadness or grief may indicate a larger problem that is often overlooked. Some warning signs of depression are:
- Frequent, generalized and out-of-proportion complaints about any medical condition;
- Irritability or mood swings;
- Difficulty organizing thoughts or remembering things;
- Feelings of sadness or apathy;
- Feelings of worthlessness, uselessness or excessive guilt; and
- Difficulty sleeping, eating or other regular daily activities.
If you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself or others, contact a mental health provider or your regular physician. Clinical depression is a medically treatable condition, and early diagnosis can make treatment more effective.
About Aging Issues
Twice each month, the Ohio Department of Aging delivers Aging Issues, a column from Director Barbara E. Riley that examines topics of interest to older Ohioans, their family members and others who care for and serve them. Aging Issues is intended for personal use as well as re-publication in newspapers, newsletters and other publications with older adults as a target audience.
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