The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is upon us. Although many enjoy all the preparation and festivities, it can also be a very stressful time of year. Here are a few coping strategies:
Plan ahead. Use a calendar to not only keep track of holiday gatherings and events, but to plan tasks of what you’d like to accomplish and when. If you have a smartphone, consider setting calendar alerts to help keep you on track. Make a list of who you need to buy a gift for along with potential gift ideas. Think of your calendar and gift list as helpful “working documents” in which you can add, change and, most importantly, cross-off items as completed.
Maintain healthy habits. It’s easy to overdo it during the holidays with too much shopping, too many sweets and far too little sleep. When you’re overtired, tasks suddenly become much more difficult. Avoid overcommitting yourself. Although you might like to accept every invitation and generously give of your time to help with holiday preparations (baking, cooking, decorating, etc.), it’s just not feasible to try to do it all. Strive to maintain a healthy diet, exercise and sleep routine. Most importantly, make time for yourself.
Reach out. The holidays can be a time for reflection, which may increase stress and also bring about feelings of sadness or loneliness. It’s important to reach out to others – a caring friend, your local community center, club or religious group – for support and companionship. Consider volunteering. In every town, there are any number of local organizations that need volunteers, especially during the holiday season. Old Colony Elder Services (OCES) is one of 25 Aging Services Access Points (ASAPs) in Massachusetts offering a variety of volunteer opportunities. Reach out to OCES’ Volunteer Coordinator for assistance locating a volunteer opportunity near you by visiting: www.ocesma.org/volunteer. Helping others will help you to feel more positive about things as well.
Stay connected. Maintaining holiday traditions may prove difficult if distance or circumstance separates you from family and friends. But, try to find ways to preserve those bonds and celebrate together. Technology enables us to connect at any time from just about anywhere, so take advantage of it and share photos, videos, emails and texts. Whether your family is in a neighboring state or across the ocean, arrange a time to talk via phone or video chat.
Check-in. The holidays are an ideal time to check on an older family member, neighbor, or friend who is living alone to see how they are coping.
During your visit, look for signs that he or she may need assistance. Outdated or a lack of food in the refrigerator and on shelves may indicate that he or she may not be getting out to purchase groceries or is unable to prepare nutritious meals. Mail that is accumulating may indicate that he or she is having difficulty keeping track of and paying bills. Is the laundry piling up? Is their appearance unkempt? These may be signs that assistance with money management, household chores or activities of daily living is needed.
There are a number of supportive services available to older adults which helps to keep them healthy and safe while enabling them to remain independent at home.
To learn more about supportive services and other resources available to older adults and family caregivers in Massachusetts, contact OCES at 508-582-1561 or your local ASAP.