We look forward to the holidays as a time to slow down, reconnect with family and friends and create lasting memories for the coming year. But more often than not, the season can be fraught with stress and tinged with grief by the constant reminder of loved ones who may be missing from this year’s celebrations. For older adults, each year that goes by may also mean the number of those who have passed away is slowing growing.
And even when the hot topics of religion and politics are politely avoided at the dinner table, families; parents, children and siblings alike really know how to push each other’s buttons. And these triggers can last long into adulthood.
When adult children return to their parents’ table, strange things happens. They commonly return to their childhood dynamics and grandparents, looking forward to seeing their family all together are transported back in time to rehash the emotional wounds and injustices from years ago.
What are some strategies to stop stress from taking over the holiday season? Here are a few tips from the Mayo Clinic:
- Own your feelings. If someone has recently died or your feel isolated, acknowledging your feelings and taking the time to express them is healthy.
- Take a time out when your feel sad or stressed. Pushing yourself too hard can leave you feeling overwhelmed.
- Try deep breathing exercises, taking a quiet walk outdoors, reading, soaking in a hot bath or getting pampered at the salon.
- Reach out when you feel lonely; volunteering is a good way to avoid social isolation.
- To avoid stress triggers, decide in advance to set aside problematic issues to deal with at a later date.
- Try to stick to a mainly healthy diet. A few indulgences over the holidays is natural but too many can cause more anxiety.
- Embrace new traditions. Trying to recreate the perfect holiday meal or gift opening experience can be exhausting and lead to more stress.
Older adults and caregivers of elderly family or friends should seek professional help if they feel sad, anxious, unable to sleep, irritable or hopeless persistently. Know your triggers for stress and find your own strategies to find peace, love and happiness this holiday season.