The holidays can be a magical time – but very often, people are not feeling that merry. So much stress is put on us to make it “the most wonderful time of the year” that many of us find it the most difficult and painful time of the year. It’s also an expensive time of year, which can lead to anxiety, especially for those on a fixed income.
Especially for our older loved ones, the holidays may remind them of how lonely they feel during the rest of the year. Memories of the past may bring the grief of lost loved ones to mind. Still, others face physical limitations that make it difficult for them to fully participate in all the season has to offer.
As families grow and change, “traditions” often change too, and that can be hard for everyone to accept. Children grow older, move away, may have to work over the holidays and be unable to join family celebrations. People pass away and are missed, especially on special days. Some families are coping with elders experiencing Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
Still, others may find themselves with no family around to share a celebration, and when they see friends on Facebook or stories in the media enjoying happy family gatherings, they feel even more isolated. Know that it’s okay, even natural, to feel depressed at this time of year. Many people do, even when they are surrounded by family and seem like they should be having a good time. Sometimes a crowded room is the loneliest place of all.
Try these Antidotes for Holiday Stress and Depression:
- Financial anxiety is a real part of the holiday season. Alleviate it by focusing on what’s really important to you – whatever that is. Most people are not made truly happy by more material things, especially if they already have plenty. Instead write and share a story the family may not have heard, create and share a digital album of pictures from the past year, or invite friends in for a potluck celebration. Enjoying each other’s company doesn’t have to be expensive.
- More (usually not healthy) food and less exercise lead to more stress and depression. While it’s fine to indulge in special holiday meals, in between make sure you are loading up with vegetables and fruits. Go to the gym, take a walk around the block, dance to some holiday music at home – get yourself moving and release those endorphins for some true happy holiday spirit.
- Really consider what is a “must” do vs a “nice” to do. Let the “nice” ones drop off the list! And of the “must” do’s, do you have to do it yourself? Who can help you? Can you buy some of the holiday dinner from a good grocer rather than making everything yourself? Can you hire someone (maybe some family teens) to help with house-cleaning? Ask for and accept help.
- Think about volunteering, not as an additional item on your to-do list, but maybe to replace some of the less-important things on your schedule. Volunteer at a local senior center, church, community center, hospital, or shelter.
- Who do you know that’s alone on the holiday? Invite them to join your celebration. When you do something nice for someone else, it lifts your own spirits as well.
- You are not responsible for everyone else’s holiday happiness – or unhappiness. Let go of trying to control each and every experience, and you’ll find you actually gain more control over your time and mindset. Remember that every thing you are doing – cooking, gift wrapping, sending cards, organizing, decorating – are things you have chosen to do. And if they aren’t giving you pleasure, don’t do them. You can always make a different choice.
- Don’t worry about keeping up the old traditions if they don’t make sense anymore. Do what works for you and your family at the stage of life you are in now. Just because something was done in the past doesn’t mean it has to be done the same way this year.
Most importantly, count your blessings. Make gratitude a key part of your holiday celebration, and make a New Year’s resolution to be grateful every day. If you are “sandwiched” between children needing attention (no matter how old they are!) and older parents or relatives who need care, consider giving us a call at Assisting Hands serving Cincinnati OH. We can be there for you, offering respite care, help with basic household cleaning, running errands, and just being a compassionate companion for your elder loved ones. Let us add life to your loved one’s years and peace of mind for you.