It’s a festive time of year for many, but others struggle with feelings of loneliness and depression during the holiday season.
For some people, the holiday season can be a reminder of loss and loneliness, reinforced by cultural ideals on what is to be expected from family and friends. It can be helpful to plan ahead in order to offset the potential for melancholy.
Loneliness can occur even when someone is surrounded by people. It is the feeling of disconnect, not necessarily the number of friends one has. This disconnect can result from the loss of a loved one, a strained or distant relationship or a move to a new space. These negative feelings can happen to anyone at any time and can also be compounded by issues related to mobility, income or health.
Reminded of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, Des Moines Chaplain Michael Byrd said, “People can become lonely and depressed when dwelling on their own ‘Ghost of Christmas Past’, choosing to focus on what was. In “A Christmas Carol,” we are drawn to appreciate and celebrate the joys of our Christmas past as fond memories.
“Our ‘Ghost of Christmas Present’ reminds us of what we’ve lost in the here and now and of the treasures we still have: neighbors, new friends, grand and great-grandchildren and the opportunity to laugh, to live and celebrate another Christmas.
“The ‘Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come’ helps us understand that we may not have many more Christmases; we can either sit in the solitude and loneliness of our making or we can choose to reach out, break free and be a blessing to others and ourselves.”
Depression can manifest itself physically, so take these proactive steps towards making the holidays a more spiritually fulfilling and positive experience.
- Turn on some of your favorite music or watch your favorite movies or comedies.
- Enjoy your hobbies or challenge yourself and begin a new one. Many interesting DIY (do-it-yourself) craft ideas can be found online. Try browsing Pinterest for some ideas!
- Do something good for someone else by an act of charity or gift. People feel connected to their communities and the world by having a positive impact on others, be they people or animals.
- Make an effort to chat with strangers while out and about. Ask questions and learn more about their interests.
- Join a social group that appeals to you, perhaps a book club, fitness group, walking group or arts and crafts group.
- Go online to find interesting articles, videos, photos or communities relating to something that interests you. Remember to use well known sites that you’ve heard of before and avoid sharing personal information such as bank details. Wesley Homes’ Facebook or Pinterest might be a great place to start!
- Take the initiative to be social with friends and family; call, email or post to their social media page.
- Visit your campus chaplain to discuss your holiday plans or next year’s goals.
Family members and friends can also help their loved ones enjoy the holidays. Here are some ideas for cultivating a more positive holiday experience for older adults.
- Listen and seek to understand. Listening with empathy, instead of listening for a chance to speak, can make a huge difference in how valued your loved one feels.
- Remind your family member or friend how important they are to you and others. Ignore the holiday hype by simplifying and focusing on what your traditions mean to you and to your loved ones.
- If your parent is in assisted living, join them in a scheduled activity or outing, especially with intergenerational programs.
- Decorate your parent’s living space with them as a fun activity. This can be a nice time to chat; it can also prompt people to share memories, especially if the decorations include family ornaments.
- Go shopping with your loved one or consider options provided by Wesley Homes Home Health services.
- Surprise your parent with something special they might not expect; tasty homemade cookies are still popular.
- Bring out old photo albums; reminisce and share family memories.
- Take your loved one to church, and visit with spiritual leaders.
- Spending time with your loved one. While free time is scarce, face-to-face interactions can make a significant difference in mood for aging adults.
Chaplain Byrd emphasized, “The fullness of our happiness and our joy has been placed into our hands. The choice for a Merry Christmas is ours!”