Denise Traboulsi, MSW

Community Resource Center for Aging

‘The Most Wonderful Time of the Year’?

While the holidays can be a time of great joy and celebration, they can also be a challenging time for those who have lost a loved one during the year or who are lonely or feeling isolated. Memories of past holidays can often trigger feelings of sadness and loss. Declining health and mobility can also make it tough for older adults to get through the holidays. The distance from friends and family members also grows as we get older. The burden of caregiving can even feel heavier during the holiday season.

Even in sunny Southern California, a colder climate and fewer hours of sunlight can affect our mood. Seasonal Affective Disorder, also appropriately abbreviated as SAD, is a real form of depression resulting from changes in the weather during the winter months. This is also sometimes referred to as the winter or holidays blues. Symptoms of SAD are loss of interest in activities, feelings of sadness or depression, changes in appetite, loss of energy, difficulty concentrating or making decisions and, in extreme cases, thoughts of death or suicide.

It’s important for us to notice and acknowledge these feelings in ourselves and those around us. If you find yourself feeling down, try sharing those feelings with a trusted friend, family member or confidant. Just the act of expressing one’s feelings can sometimes help relieve some of the anxiety we are feeling. If you are overwhelmed by the pressures of getting everything done, try to set realistic goals and prioritize what is truly important in your life. If you are a caregiver, ask other family members or friends to help to provide you some respite; it can be a great gift to yourself. Another strategy for keeping away the holiday blues or minimizing their effect on us is to keep our bodies healthy – avoid overeating and limit your intake of alcoholic beverages, try to do some form of exercise 20 minutes a day, and make sure to get adequate rest and sleep.

If you are experiencing the severe symptoms of depression or SAD as described above, call your doctor immediately. Your mental health and emotional health are just as important as your physical health. For more information on resources available to address depression, loneliness or social isolation, contact us at the Community Resource Center for Aging at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital at (818) 949-4033 or email us at aging.resources@med.usc.edu.