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Get your smile back in time for the holidays

Created date

November 20th, 2012

Holiday time is meant for happy celebrations with family and friends, but some people don t look forward to it. Seniors might be thinking about losses they ve had and how quickly time has gone by, says Barbara Morris, M.D., medical director at Crest, an Erickson Living community in Highlands Ranch, Colo. A spouse or good friend may have died, or someone may be mourning the loss of a career, financial stability, or their previous good health. Although someone may have already grieved for a loved one, they may feel sad all over again when they think of past happy holiday times, she explains, or they may be sad if a loss of good health means they can t travel to see family or friends like they used to.

The blues versus clinical depression

Having the blues is a temporary problem, but clinical depression is a chronic, long-term condition. The blues can progress to depression if symptoms are severe or persist beyond the holiday season. Someone who is a little blue can still get through the day without much problem, but someone who is depressed may have difficulty concentrating, lose interest in their normal activities, have a significant loss of appetite, or sleep problems, says Roberta Feldhausen, P.M.H.C.N.S., B.C., director of mental health services at., an Erickson Living community in Silver Spring, Md. Medication and therapy might be needed if your symptoms are interfering with your daily life and functioning. People who already have a diagnosis of clinical depression can sometimes have their condition worsen for a few weeks during the festive season. A medication adjustment or extra counseling might be needed if depression symptoms worsen, Morris says.

Getting through it

Dealing with holiday blues involves learning to recognize it for what it is, Feldhausen advises. You need to be aware of your feelings and accept them and develop a plan to cope. This can give you a sense of control and help you feel a little better. Be good to yourself. That doesn t mean overindulging in holiday goodies, Morris cautions. Use moderation and keep alcohol intake to a minimum. Some people put their exercise routines on hold until after the holidays, but activity is a great mood lifter, she adds. At the very least, try to take a walk every day. Seek support from friends and family. Don t underestimate the power of a nice conversation with someone you love and trust. Look for opportunities to volunteer. Doing things for others can go a long way to making someone feel good, whether that s helping a friend or family member or volunteering in the community. Check out schools, places of worship, or other charitable organizations in your area for ways to help. Think about what you like about the holidays and what brings you joy, Morris says. Don t participate in activities that have no meaning for you. Pace yourself and prioritize your schedule. It s important not to wear yourself down.

Warning signs of depression

If you have any of these symptoms, call your doctor.
  • Persistent sadness
  • Bouts of crying
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Appetite and weight changes
  • Restlessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, or guilt
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep problems
  • Thoughts about hurting yourself or suicide

Helping someone who has the blues

Maybe you don t feel gloomy during the holidays, but you know someone who does. There are many ways you can help offer to drive or cook a meal or assist with other tasks such as shopping or cleaning. Remember to be a good listener.