When the Holiday Season Isn’t Always a Happy One

Senior woman at home on Christmas

By Jeannie Finnegan, CDP, Elder Care & Dementia Care Specialist

With the holiday season upon us, everywhere we look we see signs of joy and festivity — sparkling lights in our neighborhoods, commercials of happy families celebrating together, decorations in every store, and social media pictures of holiday bliss. But despite being called the “most wonderful time of the year” and the “season to be jolly,” for many people, the holiday season can be a time of depression, grief, sadness and loneliness.  Some statistics report that as many as 45 percent of us may feel isolated, lonely, or depressed during the holidays, and now that we are on “Season 2” of the pandemic, those numbers may be even higher. Concerns about Covid will keep many people apart, especially families with older parents and relatives. For those who are caring for a loved one, there is often added stress and feelings of isolation and pessimism making it difficult to cope.

Those who struggle during the holiday season can take heart, however, as there are some helpful strategies for dealing with the negative emotions that can certainly dampen the holiday spirit:

Remember to Care for Yourself

If you are a caregiver for a loved one, the holidays can be especially difficult. Your caregiving duties may take so much of your time that you can barely think of how to have the holiday you’d really like to have. Your feelings of sadness or anxiety about your loved one’s condition may add another level of difficulty as you contemplate how different the holidays will be this year. Consider reaching out to a home care agency or respite care so that you can do your holiday shopping, baking, or just get some rest. It’s important to care for yourself so that you can be physically, mentally and emotionally able to care for your loved one.  At Stanton Aging Solutions, we can help you identify your needs and goals and assist with putting the appropriate resources in place for a better quality of life for you and your loved ones.

Reach Out to Others

For those who feel socially isolated because they don’t have family nearby, withdrawing will only make things worse. Instead, reach out to friends or relatives for support, find somewhere to volunteer, get involved with church events, and consider reaching out for counseling to help understand your feelings and get the help you need.

Create New Traditions

For those who are grieving the loss of a loved one and missing their presence during the holidays, it may be helpful to begin a new tradition, such as going somewhere for a vacation or planning a new holiday outing. Focusing on others can also help distract us from our own troubles. You could reach out to a neighbor who needs help or assist with a toy collection drive. Give yourself permission not to give in to the stress and expectations of the season if you’re not up to a family event or activity, and look into grief counseling if you feel you are not managing your sadness.

Don’t Seek Perfection

Try to set realistic expectations rather than the Hallmark picture-perfect holiday season that we see on television. If family conflicts or losses are cause for sadness, anxiety or disappointment, make sure your plans don’t put added pressure on yourself or your family to be “perfect.” Rather, try to accept the way things are and look for the positives in your family and your holiday get-togethers. Focus on what you do have and what you can be grateful for.

Simply Do Less

Try not to do too much. Adding stress to your life by trying to attend every event, meet end-of-year work deadlines, buy presents you can’t afford, and satisfy all your own (and your family’s) expectations can make the holidays feel burdensome and exhausting, causing loss of sleep and increased feelings of anxiety and depression. Keep your life balanced and make sure to slow down and be satisfied with a less-than-perfect holiday.

May you, your family and friends all enjoy a holiday season that is less stressful, more hopeful, more connected, and a time of joy and peace in your lives.

Leave a Reply