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Managing the Holidays for Seniors

(This story is by Margie Culbertson, an AARP Mississippi volunteer and freelance writer. Her photo is on the left.)

Gathering with loved ones and sharing in the holiday spirit are things we look forward to, but for some, the holiday season can be challenging. We often face battles with the bulge, tight finances, stress, and sadness. And, for some, physical limitations can make socializing and church attendance tough.

So what can we do?

One good place to start is the American Psychological Association website article called “ Making the most of the holiday season.”

In addition, we have several specific suggestions and links which may help.

Alone this year?

A WebMD article “ Alone for the Holidays” emphasizes planning ahead if you’ll be celebrating alone. These include: 1) telling friends you would like to be included in their activities, or 2) cooking a simple meal (going out for a meal) and inviting someone, who might be facing the holiday alone as well, to enjoy the holiday together.

  Handle expectations

Expectations can really tax our enjoyment of the holidays. In an article called "Coping With Holiday Stress - Keeping Our Expectations Realistic", the author writes, "Having a realistic expectation . . . can allow us to have an enjoyable time with those we love."

Simplify

Enjoy the real meaning of the holidays - being with your loved ones and friends, precious memories, your religious faith, and helping those less fortunate. One helpful online article writes about " Keeping Your Main Thing The Main Thing During The Holidays." In it, the author writes, ". . . once you feel the less important beginning to push out the most important, it's time to refocus, cutback and simplify."

Stay healthy.

Taking care of your health during the holidays doesn't mean that you can't enjoy yourself. So: 1) get your flu and pneumonia shots, 2) stay active, and 3) eat properly. Reading a great article called “ 10 Ways to Stay Healthy during the Holidays” from The Academy of Nutrition Dietetics site can help.

  • This article lists many great ideas such as: avoid dieting during the holidays; use smaller plates; survey the buffet before choosing foods; eat healthy meals prior to the event (and have a snack just before it begins); and remember that many holiday drinks contain loads of empty calories.
  • Consider health conditions: It’s hard to keep that inner child suppressed when faced with so many delicious choices. However, during the holidays, many people ignore their dietary restrictions and this seriously compromises their health.
  • Stay active: Regular physical activity and exercise are important to our physical, emotional, and mental health. That’s why health experts say that older adults should aim to be as active as possible—to whatever degree they are able.

Manage emotions

The online site Legacy Connect discusses handling feelings of sadness and grief during the holidays in an article called “ Managing the Holidays.” The authors say that it’s important to: 1.) express your emotions when they arise; 2.) honor memories; 3.) stay busy; and 4.) find ways to soothe yourself. 

Focus on the people

Emphasize love, people, and connections with all of those you come into contact with—not the material items. Your presence will be remembered long after your presents have been long forgotten.

Let’s all turn our holiday season into a time of love while we make wonderful new memories. We wish you abundant joy in this holiday season!

(NOTE: We hope you enjoyed this November/December 2014 column and all of the columns this year. In our January 2015 column, we’ll focus on “The Power of Gratitude.” To contact Margie for questions, comments, or suggestions, or to gain access to her earlier columns, email her at humorandlife@gmail.com ).

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