Holiday Sanity Savers for Seniors
~ By IPC/Senior Care of Colorado ~
Holidays are designed to provide a special time for tradition and celebration, but sometimes little frustrations such as tangled tree lights or a burnt dessert can suddenly seem big. Coping with changing life circumstances or with health issues can present even bigger challenges during the holiday season, threatening those bright moments spent with family and friends.
If you want to enjoy a holiday season this year that’s more infused with gratitude, love, and good cheer, then begin by letting go of the things that won’t seem like such a big deal in two months’ time. Advance mental and physical preparation can also help de-stress your holidays, so consider these five key areas of advice to help you celebrate the holidays in a healthful way.
Establish Boundaries for Your Health
Holiday activities might interrupt your regular exercise routine or tempt you to abandon healthy eating habits, but remain resolute in sticking to your plans for health and fitness. It’s important to maintain the fitness level you’ve already achieved, so seek out ways to integrate exercise into your plans with family and friends. Make family time an active time by taking a social walk with a loved one, or buy a day pass to a local gym if you are out of town so that you can continue your personal fitness program.
In addition to exercising regularly, be aware of increased exposure to illnesses that can be passed from one person to another such as the cold or flu. While traveling or visiting with family members from other locations, the risk of exposure to these illnesses can be greater, and their effects on seniors can also be more severe, especially if your immune system is already compromised. Don’t be afraid to reschedule a visit or family activity to reduce a known health risk, and boost your immunity in the meantime by getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and eating healthy meals that include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
When joining family and friends for holiday social gatherings, be aware of how different energy levels affect your mental and physical health. Children, for example, often display high-energy patterns as they buzz around from activity to activity, engage in conversation, or exhibit shifting moods. If you find yourself having trouble keeping up with others, including adults, who are moving at a high-energy pace, then don’t shy away from saying that you need to slow down or that you prefer a more tranquil setting.
Make sure that you are rested and feeling well to prepare yourself for the high physical and mental demands of group activities, or seek out ways to integrate activities that match your energy level into the gathering. Suggest lower-level activities if you need to slow down, such as having a one-on-one conversation in a side room, reading a story to a child on a cozy couch, or watching an at-home movie with others in the group.
Recognize Parenting Style Differences
If you are spending time with family during the holiday season, it’s likely that you’ll notice a variety of parenting styles. As a senior, you may be in the role of a parent, grandparent, or even a great-grandparent. Over time, generational parenting patterns have changed, so you will probably notice that your children take a different parenting approach from the one that you took with them. Perhaps they offer their children choices instead of having rules, or maybe they require their kids to do fewer chores than you required. Perhaps they allow their children less free time outside or have more fears for their safety.
It is normal for different generations to adopt different parenting styles, and you may feel conflicted about being in a dual role as a parent and grandparent. If you would like to initiate a conversation with an adult child on this topic, thoughtfully choose where and when to voice your concerns. Ask for permission to engage in a conversation, and agree upon a discreet location for a meeting. Express respect and a genuine desire for understanding while keeping a critical tone out of the conversation. Consider such moments as an opportunity to learn more about your own adult child, and you may notice that you both gain understanding of each other in the process.
Make Time for Yourself
In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, take some time to relax and recharge on your own terms. While you will likely have more opportunities for social and group activities, it’s still important to take some time for your own physical and mental health. In addition to keeping up your fitness routine, seek out opportunities to de-stress in a calm environment, whether that involves taking a quiet walk by yourself or reading a chapter of a book. Return to a social setting only once you feel rejuvenated, and you’ll likely find renewed ease when participating in a conversation or joining in on a board game.
Remain Flexible for Change
Changing life circumstances might also mean changing long-standing traditions, so approach the holiday season with an openness to try new things. If you have recently lost a family member or friend, then the holidays can be difficult emotionally as you remember the times you have shared together. Be aware of your own grief process as you make decisions about what traditions to embrace and what traditions to replace.
Give yourself permission to change established plans if you feel overwhelmed, and also give yourself equal permission to laugh and smile in the midst of a difficult time. Ultimately, balancing tradition and celebration effectively are at the heart of the holiday season. Take time to honor individual and cultural traditions while also inviting in the lightness and joy of a true holiday celebration.