Holiday blues busters

Holiday blues busters

While Elvis crooned about having a "Blue Christmas," many don't realize that the Holiday Blues are a true phenomenon that seniors are especially likely to experience. Feeling down during this joyous time of year can leave many wondering, "What's wrong with me?" If you are experiencing headaches, anxiety, trouble sleeping, a change in appetite, trouble making decisions, trouble concentrating, decreased energy, a loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, you may be experiencing the holiday blues. Rest assured, you are not alone-depression during the holiday season is common and there are things you can do to lighten your blues.
In an NBC Dateline and Prevention Magazine pole, 41% of those surveyed rated the holiday season as "very stressful"-on par with a job interview! While the holidays may not feel quite like a job interview to everyone, it's important to remember that they do amplify situations that can be difficult for many people. Holidays can bring about changes in family, school, and job routines, travel and household arrangements all while rushing to complete shopping, attend holiday parties, decorate, and celebrate.
Seniors are especially vulnerable to holiday depression. As people age, their family roles change. Many times a loss of leadership and identity contributes to a senior's holiday blues. Seniors are often relinquished to honored guests at the family gatherings they used to host with pride. As children grow up, relocate, and start their own families, "new" family leaders are established along with new traditions. Death and/or impairment of aging spouses, siblings, and other loved ones also cause seniors to be alone more often during the holidays.
Young or old, experiencing the Holiday Blues for the first or the fiftieth time, there are things you can do to turn your holiday blues around:
* Keep your holiday expectations realistic and manageable. Remember that no one has to be happy all the time-even if those around you appear happy. Expect that sometimes during your hurried preparations, you will feel stressed and sad. Expect that you may feel lonely especially if you are celebrating this holiday without a special someone whether it's due to death, distance, or disability. Realize that it may be difficult to feel the love, harmony, and peace of the season when you are stressed, overwhelmed, and overextended.
* Look to the future; don't focus on past holidays. While lifelong traditions may help to make the holiday special, families and family traditions change. Try starting a new tradition. Spend time with some newer friends who may not have family nearby. Make new friends or reconnect with older ones. Try letting go of old holiday grudges and start fresh.
* Volunteer. In the hustle and bustle, doing something special for those less fortunate than you is fulfilling and releases tension. For seniors, volunteerism is an especially important and valuable way to stay connected with your community and maintain a sense of value and personal worth.
* Save time for yourself. Taking on too many responsibilities can quickly overwhelm even the most organized person leaving them feeling discouraged, frustrated, and resentful. Examine your traditions and separate what is truly meaningful to you and what you truly want to do from what you are feeling obligated or pressured to do. Make sure you stop for yourself-take a relaxing bath, enjoy a good book or magazine. Treat yourself to some special quiet time to rejuvenate. Thinking about other's needs and wants while ignoring your own is draining!
* Plan ahead and stay structured. Maintain realistic expectations of your time and availability to avoid spreading yourself too thinly. It's OK to say, "No, thank you," to an invitation. Before committing yourself to anything, say, "Let me check my calendar and I'll get back to you." Think realistically about your time, and if you don't want to commit yourself, politely decline with, "I'm sorry that evening doesn't work for me, but I'd love to have lunch with you after the holidays settle down." If you're planning as part of a couple or family, pledge to make commitments only after discussing with those involved or affected. Communication and planning can help prevent hurt feelings and added stress.
* When missing loved ones, acknowledge your hurt. Talk about fond memories and remember the good times. Honoring the memory of those you love may make you a bit sad and nostalgic for a moment, but denying and avoiding the hurt only allows it to multiply.
* Maintain as healthy a diet as possible. The average American puts on five or more pounds during the holiday season. While you may allow yourself a few guilty indulgences, some things will only add to your holiday blues. Don't forget the fish and other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like dark green leafy vegetables, walnuts, and cauliflower. A lack of omega-3s can make you more vulnerable to depression. The same is true for even a small vitamin deficiency. While you're filling up on fatty, sugary, and nutrient lacking holiday goodies make sure you supplement your diet with a multi-vitamin. Steady blood sugar levels will also help keep you level headed throughout this stressful season. Try eating smaller meals that are full of whole grains and complex carbohydrates spaced evenly throughout the day. Avoid sugary foods and simple starches that will cause your blood sugar, along with your moods and energy levels, to spike and plummet.
While these handy holiday blues busters may do the trick for your holiday bout of depression, prolonged feelings of depression, feeling down and out, hopeless and helpless signal a deeper problem. Remember to talk with your physician if you suspect more than a case of "The Blues."

Article written by Easter Seals Adult Day Services located at 101 E. Baltimore Street in Hagerstown. Contact them at 301-745-3828 or visit www.gwbr.easterseals.com.