The holidays are approaching, and I’m already feeling lonely and worried I’ll get depressed. How can I cope?
Most people are familiar with the “holiday blues”, but older adults may be more susceptible to bouts of loneliness and sadness during the holidays. This is due to losses of family and friends over a lifetime, and holidays unfortunately function as reminders and anniversaries of these losses. One way to proactively manage mental health around the holidays is to expand one’s thinking about how and with whom to celebrate. While you might grieve the loss of your historic cultural/family rituals, you have the opportunity to create new rituals, go to a new place, meet with new people, or try a new activity. You may realize your most favored ritual is still yours, and still doable-just with different people. You can decide what will make you feel most connected, loved, and invigorated by your world. What would you want?
Dig in a bit, and ponder. Is it eating around a table with others that matters to you most? Consider hosting or attending a dinner with neighbors or acquaintances to get to know each other better. Is it mostly about not being alone? Older Adult Centers and places of worship often have holiday events and shows to attend. Is it about feeling useful and doing something meaningful? Many community programs would be thrilled to have you volunteer and help gift wrap, serve food, or organize supplies for those in need. If all else fails, and you find yourself isolated- or you decide you really do need to grieve, and want to do it alone- take care of yourself in the process. Bathe. Eat delicious, whole foods. Tidy up. Listen to music. Remember that over drinking, over eating, over medicating, over obsessing or using other methods to quell strong emotions are likely to make you feel worse, so make sure you check in with someone in the know if you are prone to those or similar behaviors.