From stress to success – Making the best of the holidays

While the holidays can be joyful, they can also bring on stress and depression. The holidays present a dizzying array of demands — parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, to name just a few. Elders can have an especially hard time with the holiday season. At a time, when people are gathering and celebrating, losses of friends, loved ones and traditions can bring on feelings of isolation and loneliness. But with some practical tips, you can minimize the stress that can accompany the holidays.

1. Recognize the signs of stress. Be aware of emotional ups and downs, fatigue, foggy thinking, inability to sit still and concentrate or feeling paralyzed and unable to get anything done. Prolonged stress can rob us of energy and bring on emotional, mental and physical exhaustion. We can be tempted to increase unhealthy behavior such as drinking more alcohol, eating more sweets, getting less sleep and exercising less but these only lower our defenses and can magnify stress.

2. Simplify holiday activities. Many of us love to go all out for the holidays, but it is less stressful to simplify while still enjoying the spirit of the holidays. Have a potluck instead of having to cook everything yourself. Choose a few decorations, foods or activities that are the most important and doable. Then enjoy them!

3. Start new traditions. Try doing something new instead of focusing on what you’re not doing. Make new memories. Attend a holiday concert. Use technology and have a video visit. Go through a photo album with family members.

4. Keep it positive. Take time each day to be thankful. Think about the blessings you have in your life – grandchildren’s smiles, a helping hand from a friend, cuddles with your pet, food on the table, a safe place to live, etc. Everyone has something that fills their heart.

5. Take a break. Do something nice for yourself. Get a massage, have coffee with a friend, go for a walk, make a holiday craft, get something special just for you, or play a game with friends.

6. Make gifts practical. Some gift ideas include: talking watches or clocks, coffee pots that turn off automatically, large wall calendars, gift certificate for haircuts or a favorite restaurant, bird feeders, or newspaper subscriptions. Better yet, give the gift of time and attention and plan an activity with those you love doing something you both enjoy.

7. Have realistic expectations and set limitations. Then stick to them and be clear about them with others. Recognize that holidays may be a difficult time and plan accordingly. You do not have to live up to the expectations of friends or relatives.

8. Reach out to others. Do something nice for another person or family in need. Volunteer your time and/or talents. Call a friend or family member that you haven’t talked to in a while.

9. Balance solitude with sociability. While solitude can renew strength, being with people you care about can be equally important. A balance of both is important.

10. Utilize available resources. If faith is important to you, participate in holiday services. Seek out a support group. Connect with local programs and agencies.

Lutheran Social Services Aging Life Care is a good place to start. Aging Life Care provides an option for adults age 65 and older and those with chronic medical or mental health needs to stay independent longer with the support of a trusted advisor along the way. Specialists identify resources that meet the client’s needs and provide assistance to access those resources.

Contact Cheryl Coyle at 271-3251 at the Minot Lutheran Social Services Program Center for more information.