Tips on self-care during holiday season

While the holiday season can be a time of joy and celebration, it can also be emotional and stressful for older adults feeling lonely, grieving a loss, or battling a chronic health condition.

Additionally, the “holiday blues” – feelings of sadness that begin in November and last through the New Year – can negatively impact mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports two-thirds of people with a mental illness experience worsening symptoms during the holiday season.

If you are feeling sad, lonely, anxious, or stressed as the holidays approach, here are some suggestions for taking care of yourself in the weeks ahead with behaviors that promote health and wellness.

Acknowledge that holidays may look different and consider creating new traditions. As adults age, holiday routines can be interrupted by the ebbs and flows of life, like adult children establishing new routines with families of their own. It is OK to grieve the loss of holiday traditions. However, it may be helpful to change your holiday routine or establish a new holiday tradition.

Keep a gratitude journal. Research suggests that one aspect of the holidays can actually lift our spirits – expressing gratitude. Write down three things you are grateful for every day. They do not have to be big things. You can start your day by journaling or make it a part of your evening routine.

Go for a walk or sit outside for some fresh air. Getting outside is a great way to practice self-care, even if it just for a few minutes. If physical activity is a challenge, reading, journaling, or meditating outside can also positively impact your mental wellbeing.

Connect with others, even if it is in small ways. Chat with the cashier at the grocery store, meet a friend for coffee, or find a volunteer opportunity, like delivering meals to fellow older adults through Johnson County’s Home-Delivered Meals program. You can also reach out to others through phone and video calls, emails, holiday cards or letters. Holiday routines or traditions are not the only ways for us to connect with others during the holiday season.

Ask for help and find professional support. Remember, it is OK to feel whatever emotions you may be feeling during the holiday season. You are never alone, and help is always available. Johnson County Mental Health Center is here for you by calling the 24/7 crisis line at 913-268-0156 or visiting the Shawnee or Olathe offices for same-day, walk-in services – called Open Access – Monday through Friday, beginning at 9 a.m.

Information provided by Elaine Good, LSCSW, a clinician who works with older adults at Johnson County Mental Health Center.