Commercials depicting happy families blissfully enjoying the holidays can set up unreasonably high expectations for family togetherness, harmony and happiness during the holiday season. When our families don’t quite measure up, we may feel sad and disappointed. At this time of year, all of us are vulnerable to the “holiday blues.” However, seniors and family members who are ill are at highest risk as they cope with physical vulnerabilities and associated losses such as, loss of health, mobility and loss of independence. Of note, there is a difference between “holiday blues” and depression. If the sadness does not lessen after the holidays or if sadness intensifies and disrupts daily activities, a professional evaluation is warranted.
Here are some tips to consider to help deal with “holiday blues.”
1) Keep in mind that there is no one “right way” to celebrate the holidays. Don’t be a slave to past traditions. If you don’t feel up to it, change your traditional celebration and start a new family tradition.
2) Don’t take on too much. Delegate some holiday tasks to others. It is important to balance social demands with sufficient rest and relaxation.
3) Lower your expectations. Don’t expect family members to change for the holidays or expect to have the perfect family celebration. Embrace the quirks; they are what make your family unique!
4) Encourage reminiscing during holiday celebrations. Listen to family stories. Story telling, even when not completely factual, can go a long way to making each family member feel appreciated and valued.
5) Involve seniors in holiday activities. Ask for traditional recipes, encourage them to help with meal preparations, decorations, sending cards, baking pies, cookies and so forth as their ability and interest allow.
Remember the best holiday gift is spending time with, and being present for, your loved ones.