What to Do When the Holidays Are Not So Jolly

Picture of depressed older person

For children, the holiday season can be magical and full of special delights. But as adults, sometimes they are filled with stress, hassles, loneliness and fatigue. In a season that is supposed to be merry and bright, we may not feel like celebrating. There is so much pressure and expectation to pull off the perfect holiday with perfect gifts, perfect decorations, perfect meals…and all with a perfect smile on our face!

The reality is that life marches on and sometimes the holidays arrive at difficult times in our lives. We all can relate to this, I am certain. We have all experienced a holiday season which was less than perfect. Perhaps you are alone or sick this holiday. Maybe there are family conflicts or financial burdens hanging over you. Is grief or depression making it hard to get in the holiday spirit? We asked the Peer Advisors to share their thoughts on how to avoid falling into the holiday blues. Here are their responses.

DeAnna Quietwater Noriega: Reach Out to Those Who Are Alone

The first Christmas I was married, going home to my mother’s reservation in Michigan from California where my husband and I were in college was not financially possible. My husband’s parents decided to vacation in Mexico. We decided to go to a Woody Allen film festival. The two of us and one lonely sailor were the only people in the theater. Naturally we returned to our small home even more depressed! Fortunately we had each other, my guide dog and a stray kitten to lighten our spirits. It takes a little planning to get in the holiday spirit. One thing my family does is make a few small Christmas packages for those who live alone and aren’t going to be spending the holidays with anyone. My children always enjoyed playing Secret Santa to elderly neighbors or people we knew from church. If you can work to make the holidays better for others, you will find it easier to enjoy them yourselves.

Audrey Demmitt: You Just Can’t Do it All

I remember a Christmas when I had to have surgery. I fretted over getting things done and making the holidays special for my family. We did not run around like chickens with our heads cut off and attend every event that year. In the end, there was only so much I could do and I found I enjoyed the holiday season more than usual. I believe it was because I was forced to “simplify.” I learned ways to keep things simple. We spent more quiet time at home together. Since that Christmas, I only need to think about the beauty of simplifying things and how that decreases stress for everyone. This involves saying “no” to some activities and choosing which traditions are the most important to keep alive. You just can’t do it all.

Mary Hiland: Think About Others and Volunteer Your Time

When nobody has invited you for a party or an event, do the inviting yourself. Ask your neighbors to come in for a holiday beverage or a coffee and cake. Haven’t seen certain friends for a while? Invite them in on a different evening. Belonging to a church is a good way to be involved with holiday festivities. Don’t belong to a church? Ask a friend if you might tag along for a Christmas Eve service. Do you know a person who lives alone and is suffering from loneliness? Make a package of treats and surprise them with a visit. Call your local food pantry to find out how you can volunteer. Give blood. There is always a crucial need around the holidays. Helping others takes your mind off your own blues.

senior receiving bag of food

Lynda Jones: There is Great Joy in Serving Others

Most of us have so much – we don’t need more stuff and certainly giving to those in hospitals, nursing homes, hospice, or homeless shelters is the perfect antidote for our blues. For several years I went to rural Jamaica to help with a children’s party during the holidays. It was an area where people have no electricity or running water and very limited incomes. One year I brought some donations to the School for the Blind in Kingston, Jamaica: a goalball, several small flute recorders and twelve white canes. The headmaster was especially happy to get the canes. Another year I took a Braille – n- Speak that was donated. I was blessed with joy that lasted much longer than the thrill over festivities focused on myself.

Maribel Steel: Lighten the Mood with Music

We visited a children’s hospital on Christmas day with a quartet I formed called “The Lollipops” to sing to sick kiddies in hospital. It was amazing to lighten up the atmosphere with fun songs and even the parents loved it while they sat in rooms waiting to give blood. We launched into harmonies singing Three Little Birds, On Top of Spaghetti, Don’t Worry About a Thing, Wade Through the Puddles and of course, the old song, Lollipop, Lollipop! Be sure to ask the hospital for permission ahead of time.

Amy Bovaird: Celebrate Your Loved Ones With Time, Words, and Presence

Last Christmas was very difficult because my sister was critically ill. So, we simplified. We gathered around my sister on Christmas and ate tacos – just a simple meal to bring us all together. We stayed with her for a few hours before she tired. It was very quiet but a lot of love was present. I remember my sister figuratively embracing each of us. The smile never left her face and she was in a great deal of pain. She passed away on January 13th. This is our first Christmas without her. It feels so strange. I guess there will be new traditions as my sister was at the heart of every holiday we ever had. So I would say, celebrate those you love in whatever way possible. Family matters most. Give gifts of the heart: time, words, and presence. I think the key is to simplify and celebrate relationships.

We wish you Happy Holidays full of love, joy, and peace from all of us at VisionAware!

Related Readings

A couple of years ago, peer advisor Nancy Duncan wrote a great piece on “How to Avoid Those Holiday Blues”.

Last year Angela Winfield wrote “Three Tips for Keeping Your Spirits Up”.

Sue Wiygul Martin’s post Surviving the Holidays and Vision Loss tells her story.