Your Healthy Community: Try and have a holly jolly holiday
When the cookies were ready, I needed to see. But I wasn't tall enough to reach the counter. They smelled so good. My little taste buds were watering, and I strained my head up and rested my chin on the counter. It was perfect. I could see all the cookies.
My heart jumped, but my chin was hurting. See, I had rested my chin on the cookie pan, not the counter. I began to cry, but I was confused. My mom gathered me up, and then they began to exclaim about how bad the burn was. I was whisked away to the doctor soon after. I spent Christmas morning with a bandaged chin. In all the photos, I'm sporting the big white bandage, but I look like I'm having a holly, jolly Christmas.
I don't remember if it was a holly, jolly Christmas. I remember my chin hurting. It's hard to forget pain, isn't it? This past week, I've had several visits with patients who are struggling with depression and coping with loss of independence. The holiday season can be a time when older adults keenly feel the reality of time passing, the distances between family and the absence of loved ones who have died.
Other stresses can contribute to feeling sad, like financial struggles, loss of independence, loneliness, vision problems and loss of ability to travel (Geriatric Mental Health Foundation, 2013). If you struggle with depression, you need to know that it is not a normal part of aging. So what can we do to crack the nut of depression and cope during the holiday season?
If you haven't already, you should speak with your doctor about depression if you are struggling. If you have other illnesses you are being treated for, physical problems can take center stage at the expense of your mental health. Don't self-medicate with alcohol or sedatives to make you feel better.
Depression can affect your sleep and vice versa; if you have insomnia, seek treatment. If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, get help distinguishing between grief and depression. Try new activities and meet new people. Exercise - senior citizens who exercise don't feel as lonely, have better quality of life and sustain independence longer (Borchard, 2012).
Focus on what you can control. If you've had a loss of health, you grieve that loss, too. You have two tasks: Grieve for what you've lost, and let the pain come and find your purpose in your new situation.
My chin burn was treated properly, and it healed but not overnight. Healing takes time and effort. Be patient and flexible with yourself and others. May you have a blessed holiday season (holly jolly or not).
Bailly, N., Joulain, M., Herv, C., & Alaphilippe, D. (2012). Coping with negative life events in old age: The role of tenacious goal pursuit and flexible goal adjustment. Aging & Mental Health, 16(4), 431-437. doi:10.1080/13607863.2011.630374
Borchard, T. (2012). 12 Depression Busters for Seniors. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 11, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/08/28/12-depression-busters-for-seniors/
Geriatric Mental Health Foundation. (2013, December 11). Coping with depression and the holidays. Retrieved from http://www.gmhfonline.org/gmhf/consumer/factsheets/depression_holidays.html
Katie Sciba is a writer, a licensed social worker, a pastor's wife and a mother from Victoria. She works for AARN Health Services and blogs online at Always Simply Begin.