The festivities, treats, and gifts of the holidays can make for a joy-filled season. But for some, the holidays bring extra stress and loneliness instead of cheer. Many older adults struggle with feelings of depression during the holidays as they reflect on how quickly time has gone by or feel the ache of missing loved ones. If your holiday season is overshadowed with doom and gloom, there’s hope for a brighter season. There are several ways in which you can combat the holiday blues.
When the weather turns colder, it’s tempting to stay inside and hibernate. But putting in a little effort to get out and about can boost your mood. Visiting friends and neighbors, saying ‘yes’ to that holiday party invite, and welcoming others into your home can help keep you engaged and fulfilled. Other opportunities for socializing or entertainment are numerous during the holiday season. It’s easy to find an event to attend that speaks to your interests and will bring a little extra joy, such as a holiday concert or special religious service.
If driving at night or during the winter is difficult for you, ask a friend or family member to accompany you to an event. Or if you have an older adult in your life who is unable to get out on their own, invite them along to the next event you attend, include them in decorating, or take them on a drive to see Christmas lights around town.
Getting outside for a brisk walk can also help lift the spirits. Exercise has always been an effective way to ward off depression. Joining an exercise class at a local gym or finding recreational activities at a community center are great ways to stay active during the winter months.
Volunteering and helping others has been proven to increase mental wellbeing and boost mood. A big reason for this is the social connectivity that volunteering can provide. A study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that people who volunteered more tended to report fewer symptoms of depression. Along with social connectivity, volunteering can help bring a feeling of purpose and fulfillment as you work with others to make your community a better place. Volunteer opportunities can be found at places like local schools, hospitals, museums, churches, and shelters.
If you feel the holiday blues creeping in, don’t hesitate to talk to someone about it. Even if you don’t feel comfortable talking about your feelings, just having regular chats with friends, family, or neighbors can keep you from slumping into feelings of sadness or loneliness. The Institute on Aging’s “Friendship Line” (1-800-971-0016) is a 24-hour, toll-free line for those aged 60 years and older and can provide crisis intervention or just a friendly ear to listen.
Get Help if Needed
Feeling down every once in a while can be normal, however, if you notice feelings of sadness worsening or lingering, a more serious condition may be present. Clinical depression is not a normal part of aging or something that should be expected just because of the memories the holidays can bring. Depression is serious and treatments are available. Take note of warning signs of depression including a loss of interest in hobbies or activities, changes in sleep (sleeping too much or too little), changes in appetite, sadness that won’t go away, frequent crying, being overly irritable, general apathy, or thoughts of death or suicide.
If you are experiencing several of these symptoms and they last for more than two weeks, call your doctor. For immediate assistance, Text HOME to 741741, and the Crisis Connection Line will connect you to a counselor, or call the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Line (1-800-273-8255).
A Place to Belong
Being lonely and depressed during the holiday season does not have to be your reality. Finding a community with activities to participate in can make this holiday season a joyous one. Snyder Village, a life plan community in Metamora, IL, provides its residents with a full calendar of festive activities, entertainment, and social opportunities. The retirement community, assisted living center, and skilled nursing center all provide a sense of community and togetherness. Residents enjoy having musicians come perform on the campus, taking outings together to holiday concerts, making festive holiday crafts, and celebrating with one another at parties and meals. Further, the holiday blues can be combatted by getting involved and staying active with the exercise classes and volunteer opportunities offered right on campus. Learn more about all Snyder Village offers by calling (309) 367-4300 or by clicking here.
This holiday season, don’t let sadness or loneliness take over. Get active, get involved, and get talking. And if you recognize more serious symptoms of depression, get help. The holidays can be, and should be, the most wonderful time of the year.