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Making Good Plans for the Holidays

The holiday season is different for everybody. Some people love itóthe time with family, the gifts, the decorations, the parties, the whole shebang. Some people feel sad, often because they miss loved ones who have passed away or because many family members live far away. Some people get stressed out during the holidays, finding it difficult to keep up with everybodyís expectations year after year. And still others actually become depressed at this time of year. Itís all just too much.

What category do you fit into? If you enjoy the holiday season, thatís great. Keep on doing what youíre doing, and while youíre at it, see if you can spread the joy to others. But what should you do if youíre:

Stressed out?
Chances are itís time to cut back. It could be that youíre busy taking care of an older family member or grandchildren, or it could be that you just want to relax. Whatever the reason, take a look at the way you usually spend the holidays and see where you can make some changes.

Does everybody in the neighborhood expect a tin of homemade cookies from you each Christmas? This year may be the one where you have to tell them youíre just not doing as much baking as you used to.

Do your adult children give you grief if you donít go out and get a big tree and decorate it? Have you been eyeing that cute little artificial tree that would look so nice on your coffee table? By all means, pare down and get that little tree. Getting a big tree and lugging those boxes of decorations into the living room every year is a major chore. Unless your kids are taking care of the entire tree decorating process for you, you have every right to have the kind of tree you want.

Keep things as simple as you can. Give gift certificates. Donít worry with bows and ribbons when you wrap presents. Ask people to bring a dish if theyíre coming to your house for dinner.

Chances are excellent that your loved ones will respect your need to scale down. They may even get the hint and become more helpful to you!

Missing a loved one?
The holidays are difficult when youíve lost a spouse or other loved one. Part of the problem is often that you try to pretend like youíre fine, when really what you want to do is remember the person youíve lost. This year consider having a simple remembrance for the people who arenít with you anymore. Tell your other family members that youíd like to do this. You might want to gather everyone together at a certain time, light a candle, say a prayer and talk a little bit about your happy memories.

The main message here is that itís a good idea not to bury your feelings. Acknowledge your sadness or loneliness. Having everybody remember loved ones can bring a sense of love and togetherness that could end up being the best gift of all.

Feeling isolated or depressed?
If you donít have family or close friends to be with during the holiday season, you might feel isolated, lonely or depressed. If you know that youíre not going to be able to be with people you love, itís important to make a plan now for how youíre going to spend the important holidays. That way, youíll have a reason to get up and about those days.

Consider giving your time and energy to others. If you donít have loved ones with you, you may find it rewarding to help other people. There are unlimited opportunitiesóserving food in soup kitchens, visiting children in the hospital, etc.

If finances allow it, investigate trips that cater to senior citizens. You can do a search on the Internet or talk to a travel agent. Getting out of town with other people in your age group might be something nice to look forward to.

You could also go to a senior center and find out if there are any special holiday activities going on that you could join. Senior centers may be helpful in providing transportation to church services as well.

Whatever you do, reach out in some way, so that youíre not spending the day alone at home.

Be aware of signs of depression
If thereís nothing that seems to make you feel better, itís possible youíre suffering from depression. Do you know the signs?

  • Continuing sadness
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Lack of interest in things that you used to enjoy
  • Feeling worthless
  • Worrying about things more than usual
  • Staring into space for long periods of time
  • Feeling fidgety

Tell your doctor if you have these symptoms, because there is treatment that can make you feel better.

American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry; The American Association of Retired People; The National Institute of Mental Health.

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