The Christmas Blues: beating stress during the holidays

Ideally, the holidays are a joyous and festive time spent with family and friends. For many older adults, however, this time of year brings reminders of change and loss and is anything but merry.

During the holidays, some older adults reflect more on the absence of family and feel that traditional reunions or events are meaningless without those loved ones. Unrealistic expectations play a major role in holiday stressors as well.

Late-life depression affects more than 6 million Americans, most of them women, but only 10 percent of people ever get treated, according to The Society for Women's Health Research. Holiday depression and the post-Jan. 1 letdown afflicts many more.

According to the Healthy Aging Partnership, a coalition of more than

40 Puget Sound not-for-profit and public organizations dedicated to the health and well-being of older adults, there are ways to minimize extra stress or negative feelings during the holidays:

-Set realistic expectations for yourself regarding what you can do and spend. Accept your limitations and don't be ashamed to ask for help when you need it.

-Try to really understand your emotions and why you are experiencing them.

-Learn to recognize the causes of sadness, frustration and anger in your life.

-Don't be afraid to express your feelings. Keeping negative feelings bottled up inside one's self can cause problems in relationships, so let people close to you know when something is bothering you.

-Remember that depression is not a natural condition of old age and should not be tolerated as part of the aging process.

-Honor loved ones who have passed away by donating to a charity or lighting a candle in their name.

-Get out of the house every day if possible. Go for a walk, enjoy nature or do light exercises or aerobics. Physical activity helps to eliminate bad thoughts and feelings of bleakness and drear.

-Volunteer to help others at a local homeless shelter or food bank, or donate a children's gift to charity. Helping others can help you feel good about yourself.

-Don't overindulge in holiday foods. Nutrition is the fuel for our body and our minds. Overeating can cause fatigue and promote negative feelings of guilt. Avoid sugar highs and lows. Moderation, as always, is key.

Signs of depression include withdrawal from regular activities, lack

of energy, frequent tearfulness and changes in weight or sleep patterns. If you or someone you know is depressed beyond seasonal emotions, consider talking to a counselor or your doctor.

For more information on issues related to life as an older adult, call 1-888-4Elders (1-888-435-3377). Or visit the Web site at[[In-content Ad]]