Senior Alternatives

Care Management and Home Care Services
Coping with Holiday Stress & Depression

December 8, 2022


– The holiday season can be both a great time of joy as well as a great time of added stress, especially for older adults and their caregivers.  Holidays represent family, memories of times past, and emotions –  along with the added reality that things aren’t how they once were.  The good news is that there are several strategies that help us manage this very busy time and stresses associated with it.

One major holiday stress for older adults is the feeling of loss and loneliness.  People may be grieving the loss of a loved one who passed away recently or long ago.  These unattended feelings can lead to a certain level of depression. What often helps is to talk about that person and remember the good times.  Sharing these memories provides a sense of comfort.

Maintaining your health during this busy time is also key.  It is important to stay hydrated and drink as much water as possible, in addition to our normal diet. Many foods we typically eat during the holidays have extra sugar, fat, and sodium, which can have unwanted effects on our bodies and energy levels.

According to an article published by the Mayo Clinic, there are some practical tips you can use to minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays. These may help you enjoy the holidays more than you thought you would.

Tips to prevent holiday stress and depression

When stress is at its peak, it’s hard to stop and regroup. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones for other reasons, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings.
  2. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events or activities. Many may have websites, online support groups, social media sites or virtual events. Talk to a friend or family member about your concerns. Try reaching out with a text, a call or a video chat.
  3. Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones.
  4. Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry.
  5. Stick to a budget. Before you do your gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.
  6. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, connecting with friends and other activities. Consider whether you can shop online for any of your items. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling.
  7. Learn to say No. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity.
  8. Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.

Reserach shows that the majority of older adults are not depressed.  Some estimates of major depression in older people living in the community range from less then 1% to about 5%.  These numbers rise to about 13% in those who require home healthcare and lower to 11% in older hospitalized patients.

If you are concerned about a loved one being depressed, offer to go with him or her to see a health care provider to be diagnosed or treated.

Senior Alternatives offers a free 45 minute consultation with one of our master’s level care managers to talk about this and other topics.

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To schedule a free 45 minute consultation, reach out to us: 888.451.4290 – We are here to help during the holidays and all year long.

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