Holiday Stress Relief for Seniors
The holiday season is one of the most culturally important times of the year in our society, bringing to mind classic tunes like “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” or “Walking in a Winter Wonderland”, or many other numerous holiday standards that get played on repeat making us all familiar with them. These songs all paint a rosy portrait of holidays filled with joy and festivities, but for many people, the reality of the season isn’t a match with the cheerful portrayal. The expectations and the logistics of managing the holidays can be a major cause of stress for even the hardiest and most resilient of us. And while the holidays can be a major emotional challenge at any age, for older adults it can be new territory that triggers an unpleasant and urgent stress response.
There are many reasons holidays can be stressful for older adults. One of the biggest challenges that comes with aging is loss. With the passing of time comes the inevitable changes to families due to such unfortunate occurrences as illness and death, which can leave noticable absences in gatherings, which can temper the love and joy which should usually be felt. The shift and change in holiday celebrations making them look different can lead to sadness, or even depression in some cases.
Family dynamics can also become apparent during the holidays, and expectations about what the celebration should look like oftentimes are based on an idealized image of what happy, joyous and loving families are presented to us as in movies, TV, and advertising. But what our families are and what we imagine our families to be are often not the same thing, and older adults can end up bearing witness to conflicts that can be very stressful for them to see. Navigating the holidays can be a complex juggling act, especially when it comes to balancing the care of older loved ones with commitments to other family members, our work responsibilities, and household duties.
It is always important to keep in mind that the holidays can, and should be, a source of great joy. Many older people look forward to it, and there are steps that can be taken to brighten the holidays and lift spirits. Don’t keep feelings bottled up inside, having a good cry with a trusted friend or family member can be just the release you need.
Keep things simple and set realistic goals. Acknowledge the changes that come with age, and use them to adjust expectations which will go a long way towards reducing holiday stress. Try observing the holidays with smaller gatherings that require little or no preparation, which can be just as fulfilling as past extravaganzas. If you can’t be with your family in person, consider using technology like FaceTime or Zoom to celebrate.
Reminiscing can be powerful as well. Talking about the people who are no longer with us is important, which keeps their memory and image alive during the holidays, and can maintain a sense of tradition.