The holiday season is a time for joyous celebrations with family and friends. It’s the one time of year many of us get to see long-distance friends and loved ones. But for seniors–and caregivers too–the holidays are filled with sadness and sorrow.
Whether you’ve recently lost a loved one, are thinking about the fact that someone close to you may not be here next holiday season, are over-stressed due to the increased demands of caregiving combined with the added holiday stress, or you’re simply lonely and feeling isolated, there are ways you can combat the holiday blues and stress.
- Hire some temporary outside help. You can’t do everything! Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If there’s a teenager in your life who wants to make a few extra bucks, hire them as a temporary errand-runner this holiday season. Ask other family members to chip in with caregiving duties so you have more time for holiday prep. You can also hire in-home care through an agency, with services ranging from personal care services to light housekeeping.
- Get a massage, exercise or write in your journal.Whether you’re the active type or the pensive type, there’s an activity that can help take your mind of the stress at hand. Exercise has been proven to be a stress-reducer, so even if you’re not a fitness buff, consider taking a nice, long walk to clear your head. If it’s a sunny day and warm enough to be outdoors, the extra Vitamin D can provide an energy and mood boost, as well.
- Look ahead to next year and set positive goals. When we’re depressed, we tend to focus on the negative events of the past. Looking forward instead of backwards with an optimistic outlook can help you feel more excited for the future.
- Make a resolution to improve your health next year. Stress affects our overall health and well-being, but poor health can also trigger stress. Our bodies are better able to cope with stress if we’re healthier physically and emotionally. Take action on the aspects that you can control; make a resolution to be more healthy in 2013.
- Be more efficient. Are there habits you’ve had in the past that are more time-consuming than they need to be? Maybe you always take a major shopping trip to purchase gifts, but you could save time (and possibly some cash) by ordering online and having the items delivered right to your front door. Some retailers also offer gift-wrapping services for a minimal extra fee.
- Join a support group. The season is tough for many caregivers and seniors; you’re not alone. Reach out to support groups or community organizations you belong to and connect with others. Having someone to talk to goes a long way in maintaining your emotional health. Support groups can also be found online.
- Skip the spirits. A few glasses of wine may seem like a good idea, but alcohol can actually lead to increased depression. Don’t overdo it.
- Keep your expectations reasonable. Realize that some less important items on your to-do list may have to wait until after the busy holiday season. Caregiving and aging are both processes, not goals. Things take time, and the stressors in your life aren’t going to magically disappear overnight. Make sure you’re not demanding too much of yourself.
- Cherish your memories. Whether you’re busy making new memories or hanging on tight to old ones, memories are a gift that lasts forever. Take time out to appreciate the important moments and fondly reminisce about times from the past.
There’s no getting around the stressful holiday season. Thanksgiving comes whether you’re ready or not. Christmas and Hanukkah come whether you’re prepared or not. The new year is right around the corner. Focus on changing the things you can and taking steps that can help you cope with this busy season more easily.