Seniors may find themselves noticing they can’t seem to get into the holiday spirit. This may be a good time to adjust expectations and allow negative feelings to exist.

Older adults may not feel so excited about winter holidays as they used to. It can be caused by a number of things but can be dealt with as part of the range of normal feelings.

Progress can come from accepting the negative feelings as well as taking proactive steps to get through the season.

Possible Causes of Holiday Blues Among Older Adults

It can be as simple as financial and social pressures or as complex as a lingering loneliness or grief, which is intensified by all the talk about family closeness and love.

When individuals have lost family members or friends the sadness is often intensified during this time of year.

There is also reason to believe the decreased exposure to light adds to the mix due to shorter days and the tendency to stay inside during the winter.

At times it is a combination of Christmas holiday stress and seasonal affective disorder commonly referred to as SAD, where less light and winter blues can coincide with the holiday season.

In addition, many seniors’ diet often contains excessive sugar and carbs, thus contributing to holiday weight gain as well as holiday blues.

Although older women are more at risk, anyone can experience a light case of holiday blues or even full-blown depression.

Increased and unrealistic expectations, whether they are self-imposed or absorbed from the constant pressure from the media barrage, only add to the madness.

Strategies to Help Seniors Get Through the Season

We each have our own culture and religious traditions, but no matter what you celebrate, there will be more social events than usual.

Fortunately, there are practical methods to help older people face each day more positively during the holiday seasons.

One way to rewire a person’s thinking is to remind herself that “It isn’t about me.” Look at each holiday stress and ask what it is about. Often this cognitive path helps a senior discover what is really important – whether it be a holiday gathering or a challenging day.

In addition, seniors can stop to remember that Christmas doesn’t have to be about commercialism.

  • Keep a schedule. Write a routine down. Since there’s so much emotion in the air, choose not to act on winter depression only, but rather go by a schedule. Make it loose enough for extra activities, yet structured enough to give the day some shape. For example, set a time for meals.
  • Do some physical activity in the morning. Read or watch a movie after lunch.
  • Email or call at least one person, or socialize on Facebook or similar social networking media. Sometimes just a short chat can provide holiday relief.
  • Consider walking outside, at a local mall, or another place with sights to see; enjoy nature or just go people watching.
  • Have a cup of tea or coffee at a certain time each day.
  • Take a shower and dress warmly.
  • Open the shades, blinds or curtains. Sunlight has often been shown to be helpful in relieving seasonal affective depression. Some people even use seasonal affective disorder light therapy.

Tips for Seniors Surviving Seasonal Depression

Try using some of the following tips to beat the blues:

  • Take a daily walk. This gives something to do that will get an older person up and going, and it’s good for the body as well as for reducing seasonal depression.
  • Find TV programs or music to enjoy.
  • Tend a garden or even a plant.
  • Sit on the porch or in the yard, soaking up the daylight and fresh air.
  • Get to know neighbors. Talk briefly with them, but don’t be offended when they have their own things to do. Short visits do both the senior and the neighbor good.
  • Go to a park and feed the duck or just enjoy nature there.
  • Smile even if no one is looking. In fact, force a smile upon awakening. It can become a habit.
  • Don’t hesitate to seek professional help from a doctor or counselor.

Older Adults Can Have a Stress-Free Holiday

There are self-care methods for seniors to help themselves survive the depression and holiday stress. If a senior or boomer has no place to go, attend a church or community holiday meal.

Look in the paper for activities in the community. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or food pantry. Go buy just part of the week’s food to be sure and have additional personal interaction.

It is OK to get away from the frenzy of activity. Sometimes older adults have simply had enough of the holiday madness.

For whatever reason, be it finances, family or other stresses, it can be helpful to live like it’s not holiday season for a day or so. Read a book. Listen to favorite non-holiday music. Watch a movie or two.

After a day or so of respite, there may be enjoyment, or at least more comfortable tolerance of much of the holiday’s hustle and bustle.

A rest away from it can help seniors be empowered to design the holiday they desire.

And when you are ready, Papa can pitch in and help with errands, transportation, or companionship, which can mean so much this time of year.

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