From the Wellness Center
Getting Help with the Holiday Blues
(Taken from Care.com)
Audrey Breaux loves Christmas. The 76-year-old mother of five and grandmother of eight would start planning for the holidays in October, deciding which of three trees and more than a thousand collectible ornaments will be put on display that year. She planned her Christmas dinner menu while shopping for Thanksgiving, and began baking and sending out her signature Christmas treats the first week in December.
But this year, she's having a hard time getting in the spirit. Arthritis has dramatically limited her physical mobility, and her mind wanders. ""I keep thinking about my husband and how much he missed,"" she says. ""The two grandkids who were born after he died turn 12 next year. They never knew him. I still miss him like it was yesterday.""
An Increase in Sadness
Breaux may be feeling sad, but she isn't alone. According to Mental Health America, some two million seniors suffer from some form of depression. While there's no evidence that the holidays bring an increase in clinical depression, experts say the season can be especially hard on seniors who are trying to cope with physical and emotional change in their lives. The carols in stores, the decorations in homes, the platters of cookies passed at every gathering things that represent the joy of the Thanksgiving-Hanukkah-Christmas-New Year season can trigger memories of people and things gone by. That can lead to holiday depression.
""The holidays are a time of tradition and the gathering of family and friends for many people,"" says Mary Stehle, a licensed social worker. ""For some seniors, this can be a time that reminds them of losses...the loss of loved ones, the loss of a home, the loss of good health.""
How to Help
Stehle and other mental health professionals say it's difficult for many seniors to talk about their holiday blues. They may feel that they don't want to dampen the mood for others, or they may not want to admit that they feel depressed during what should be a happy time. ""It's helpful for you to acknowledge that this time may be difficult,"" she says. ""Acknowledging that might allow you to feel okay about sharing some of the thoughts on your mind, which could make you feel better.""
Other things you can do to help yourself get through the holidays include:
Planning Ahead. Valentin Bragin, New York psychiatrist and author of Conquering Depression in the Golden Years says it's essential for seniors to feel connected to other people during the holidays. ""The key message is not to stay in your apartment alone during the holidays. Try to keep busy and participate in the recreational activities offered. Stay in touch with your children and get involved in holiday planning.
Find someone with whom you can talk. Having someone really listen can help you process your feelings, and it creates a sense of connection. Perhaps you might reminisce about your childhood or your personal holiday traditions, because sometimes its hard to acknowledge sadness, even to yourself, but talking with a loved one can often help get those feelings out in the open and perhaps even turn them around. You might even find yourself smiling before the conversation is over.
Finally, it's important to realize that while the holiday blues may be difficult, it is temporary. If you find yourself seriously depressed for more than two weeks, get help. Ups and downs in mood are normal. Depression becomes a clinical problem if the symptoms low mood, low energy, tearfulness, disrupted sleep, change in eating habits persist for more than two weeks. Then it's time to seek out a psychiatrist, psychologist or mental health counselor who can recommend a course of treatment. Depression is not a normal part of aging, cautions Stehle, and if present, clinical depression can be treated with medications, therapy, increased exercise and socialization.
So if you find yourself a little down this time of year, help decorate the trees, seek out a friend and get involved with your family. And try to remember: the holidays are not about getting they are about giving, and the best thing you can be giving is love and love, my dears, is free!
Lisa, Diane, Donna & Diana