Helping Seniors Avoid the Holiday Blues

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Do you or someone you love currently have a case of the holiday blues?

The holidays – many of us feel a sense of anticipation and joy as we approach the holidays. The holidays can be a great time to spend with family and be thankful for the many blessings we have. I have many fond memories during the Thanksgiving season. Growing up in my family, we spent the holidays giving back to the community and those less fortunate. Each Thanksgiving morning my family would wake up early and serve meals at the local homeless shelter. Some of my fondest holiday memories were shared breaking bread with complete strangers.Holiday Blues

For some of us, the holiday season is a time of grief and frustration. Perhaps a family member or a close loved one passed away during this season. Maybe the holidays are a reminder that someone we love dearly is no longer in our lives to celebrate with us. My second year of college, I opted to not go home for Thanksgiving. I remember feeling very distant and alone on Thanksgiving. Loneliness was a real emotion for me while I spent the holidays without my family. Many seniors also have a hard time celebrating the holidays.

“I hate the holidays,” said Lois, a recently widowed mother.  Her husband had passed away several years ago in mid November, and she associates Thanksgiving with loss and loneliness. Even though Lois had years of fond memories, the death of her best friend is what stands out to her.

The holidays can be a time when seniors complain of feeling down or blue. There are a multitude of reasons why people might feel this way. Loss, loneliness, isolation or stress can contribute to feelings of sadness around the holidays. These feelings are real, but most of the time, they are mild or temporary. On the other hand, if feelings of sadness, loss of interest in normal activities, problems with energy or appetite or feelings of hopelessness occur that individual may be experiencing a true clinical depression. Recognize that the holiday blues would last for a short period of time, while clinical depression lasts for an extended period of time.

If someone you love experiences some of these daily symptoms for at least two weeks, then professional help may be necessary. . MedicineNet has a list of local psychiatrists in Sarasota County that you can reference.

Here are some basic tips to avoid the holiday blues:

  1. Reach out to your network of friends or social contacts. Friends can provide assurance, validation and support during times of grief.
  2. Do activities that provide internal satisfaction – gardening, art, reading, journaling, holiday decorating, etc. Try to incorporate activities that promote a healthy lifestyle.
  3. Volunteer to help someone less fortunate. This is almost certain to help you feel good about yourself and likely grateful for the blessings you have been given. It’s difficult to be depressed while you are serving others.
  4. Stick to your normal routines as much as possible, which would include: eating, sleeping and exercise habits. If you are accustomed to starting your morning with a good book, be sure to include any routines that promote a healthy lifestyle.
  5. Don’t overspend on presents for other people. Se financial goals and stick to them. Try making gifts for friends or family. People truly appreciate gifts from the heart.
  6. Decide whom you will see and perhaps not see during the holiday. Sometimes difficult family members place a significant strain on emotions during the holidays. We all have that one relative that knows the best combination to get under our skin.
  7. Treat yourself to something special if possible. This is an easy one for me. I love sweets, and it’s not too much of an inconvenience to travel to my local bakery for a sweet treat.

Having a good plan and having realistic expectations can manage feelings of sadness around the holidays. Encourage your loved one to experiment with different ways of celebrating to prevent the holiday blues.

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