Holiday Season Brings Mixed Emotions
By Rosemary Laird, MD // November 18, 2013
TIPS TO COPE WITH THE STRESS OF THE SEASON
BREVARD COUNTY • COCOA BEACH, FLORIDA — With flu shots behind us (if you haven’t received your flu vaccination, make sure you do), its time for the holidays!
I hope you find yourself full of the happiness of the season.
I know, however, that for many people the holidays bring mixed emotions. While there is much joy and cheer during parties and family gatherings, there can also be loneliness, reflection on losses and anxiety about an uncertain future.
Given the current economic challenges perhaps more than ever we all need to be careful about not ending our year on a sour note. Here are some tips to help you cope with the stress and emotions that can come during the holiday season.
• Take care of any health care needs now. If you are going to need an appointment before January, schedule your appointment as early in the month of December as possible. Make sure you have enough medications, especially if you will be traveling out of town.
• Spend time with supportive and caring people. Take care not to let grudges or family challenges totally absorb and dominate holiday gatherings. Consider reaching out to make new friends or contact someone you have not heard from for awhile. Often new connections with family or old friends bring unexpected rewards. The now somewhat “old fashioned” Christmas card still holds power to spread great happiness even in this electronic age. Add your phone number when you sign and you’ll likely have some enjoyable conversations over the coming days.
• Save time for yourself to recharge your batteries. Let others share responsibility of activities. Just because you have always hosted Thanksgiving doesn’t mean you still have to do it all. Instead, accept from your son or daughter the offer to bring the turkey, and focus instead on your signature dish or a special desert.
• Keep expectations for the holiday season manageable. Try to set realistic goals for yourself. Pace yourself. Organize your time. Make a list and prioritize the important activities. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do. Do not put the entire focus on just one day (i.e. Thanksgiving Day) remember it is a season of holiday sentiment and activities can be spread over several days or weeks to lessen stress and increase enjoyment.
• Leave “yesteryear” in the past and look toward the future. Life brings changes. Each season is different and can be enjoyed in its own way. Don’t set yourself up in comparing today with the “good ol’ days.”
• Volunteering to prepare and serve holiday meals for the needy is a gratifying way to “pay it forward” during the holiday season. Do something for someone else. Try volunteering some time to help others. Many churches have opportunities to volunteer so check there as well as at your local senior center.
• Enjoy activities that are free, such as driving around to look at holiday decorations; going window shopping without buying; attend children’s concerts at your local school or church; enjoy holiday concerts on the radio.
• Be aware that excessive drinking will only increase your feelings of depression.
• Try something new. While there is tremendous value in tradition, it can also be good to break out of your usual habits and celebrate the holidays in a new way. Think about small changes you can make to enliven your spirits this season. It can be as simple as going to a different worship service, or eating your favorite meal instead of turkey, or taking a trip to your daughter’s home for Thanksgiving instead of celebrating at your place.
MY HOLIDAY GIFT TO YOU
These days when I talk about brain fitness and improving memory, doing something “new” is one of the best things you can do to stay sharp. So shake up your plans this year, keep these tips in mind, and look forward to 2014. My hope is that January 1st comes and you have a renewed sense of excitement and anticipation for the coming year. Happy Holidays!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Rosemary Laird, the American Geriatric Society’s 2013 Geriatric Clinician of the Year, is the founding Medical Director of the Health First Aging Institute. The Aging Institute sponsors clinics for geriatric consultation, memory loss, and primary care, and provides support for caregivers. Dr. Laird received her medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine, residency training in Internal Medicine at the University of Chicago, and a Geriatric Fellowship at the University of Kansas. You may contact Dr. Laird at 321-727-9764 or log on to Eldercare.Health-First.org