Tips to Manage Holiday Stress

Holiday Stress

By Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects*

The holidays can be demanding, overwhelming and for some, down right depressing. Bombarded with expectations and so many things to do, it is easy to fall victim to holiday stress.

If you let the stress of the holidays get to you, it is hard to stop and regroup. The key is to take steps to prevent stress or depression from occurring in the first place. Here are a few tips that just might help you get through the holidays.

  1. Be realistic: The holidays don’t have to be perfect!
  2. Set aside differences: Try and accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. As my dear mother-in-law used to say, “People aren’t always going to do to suit you.” Even if for one day, steer clear of topics that tend to cause upset in the family.
  3. Reach out: If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out social events. Volunteering your time to help others can lift your spirits and perhaps broaden your friendships.
  4. Acknowledge your feelings: If you can’t be with loved ones, or if someone close to you recently died, it is normal to feel sadness and grief. It is OK to take time to cry and express your feelings.
  5. Stick to a budget: Merchants start offering holiday sales earlier and earlier and the urge to overspend can be very tempting. Before you go shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend and stick to that amount.
  6. Plan ahead: Pick days you are going to shop, bake, decorate, gift-wrap, etc. Plan your menus so you can make a shopping list. You don’t want to have to run to the store for those last minutes items you forgot.
  7. Learn to say no: Saying yes to every project or activity can make you feel very resentful, overwhelmed and even take the joy out of the holidays.
  8. Don’t abandon healthy habits: Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Eat healthy snacks, get plenty of sleep and try and incorporate regular physical activity into each day.
  9. Take a breather: Make some time for yourself. Find something that can restore your inner calm.
  10. Seek professional help if needed: Sometimes your best efforts still leave you feeling persistently sad or anxious. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor.

It is important to recognize the holiday triggers that cause you stress or depression, and combat them before they lead you to a place where you lose the peace and joy of the holiday season.

Excerpts from Mayo Clinic, Healthy Lifestyle

 

*Pam Gennings has a Bachelor’s of Arts and has worked in the field of Geriatric Social Work and Care Coordination for more than 30 years. She started working for Oxford HealthCare in 1993. During the course of her career she has helped thousands of people find resources to remain in their homes as well as provided guidance to families that were facing difficulties with their aging loved ones.

 

Coping with Grief and Loss During the Holiday Season

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By Renee Jenkins, MSW, Oxford Bereavement Coordinator

If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, the holiday season can be a very difficult time. During the holidays, people tend to become acutely aware of the absence of someone they love. Painful feelings may be intensified and loneliness may become more profound. Following are a few suggestions to help you move forward and make the most of the holiday season.

  1. Accept Your Feelings and Acknowledge Your LossAttempting to bypass feelings requires a lot of energy, and it is not a good way to heal grief. If this is your first holiday since the loss, it may be especially important to talk with others and be honest about how you are feeling. Don’t be afraid of tears shed amongst family or with a friend; acknowledging what is in your heart provides relief and a sense of closeness. However you feel, accept it.
  2. Be Good to YourselfRemember that your sadness can drain your energy, which puts your health at risk. Shopping at peak times, attending lots of gatherings and otherwise attempting to “make merry” may increase fatigue and loneliness. This year, you might want to scale back—spending a quiet evening at home, listening to music or writing in a journal may be a more nurturing use of your time.
  3. Listen to Your Inner VoiceYour instincts may tell you that it’s a good day to have a friend over for coffee, or that perhaps you should skip the big New Year’s bash. Pay attention to this inner voice—it’s one of the best friends you have! Intuition may lead you to the perfect person or activity for that moment while keeping you from situations that are not helpful. This is a time to respond to your own needs, not to other’s expectations of you.
  4. Blend New Traditions with OldDecide which of your traditions you want to repeat this year. If an absent loved one was responsible for these traditions, decide to whom you might want to delegate these traditions. Rituals from past holidays may magnify the sense of loss of your friend or family member. Sometimes these traditions may feel comforting; if not, establish a new holiday tradition. Do what feels best to you.
  5. Make It Okay to be AloneWhile isolating yourself from others is not recommended, there are many times when solitude can be vital and deeply satisfying. Explore being alone and find out what is most compelling to do during your alone time. Loneliness can be triggered by the idea that “everyone else” is out having a good time, but use this quiet time to remember and think of the special people in your life.
  1. If Children are Part of Your Holidays – Focus on the KidsChildren, especially those younger than 13, grieve in a more intermittent way than adults. This is why they are still so excited to celebrate the holiday season. Children may be more interested in traditions and festivities than the adult members of your family this year. Ask your family members and friends to help provide that “holiday spirit” for the children in your family. Children need not be shielded from your times of sadness; their own grief is more understandable to them if they can see that you share the same feelings.

You are always welcome to join Oxford for our Grief Support Groups available in Southwest Missouri. You can also contact our Bereavement Department at

(417) 883-7500 for more information. If you live outside of Southwest Missouri and would like more information about a Grief Support Group near you, please visit www.griefshare.org

The Three D’s: Dementia, Depression or Delirium. Which is it?

By Carol Combs, MSW, Oxford’s Memory Care Program Coordinator

At times, the symptoms of dementia, delirium and depression overlap and occur simultaneously. It is important to recognize the differences in order to seek the appropriate treatment.

Dementia is a disturbance of memory, Depression is a disturbance of mood, and Delirium is a disturbance of awareness. To further explain.

  • Dementia is a gradual and progressive decline in mental processing ability that affects short term memory, communication, language, judgement, reasoning and abstract thinking. It will eventually affect long term memory and the ability to perform familiar tasks. Sometimes there are changes in mood and behavior. There is a slow, chronic progression and it is irreversible.
  • Depression is a biologically based illness that affects a person’s thoughts, feelings, behavior and mood. Symptoms are present on most days for at least two weeks and are out of the ordinary for that individual. Symptoms include tearful or sad feelings, weight changes, loss of interest in usual activities, trouble sleeping, indecisiveness, feelings of worthlessness and low self- esteem.   It is usually reversible with treatment and may be worse in the morning. A history of depression in young adulthood is a risk factor for late life depression. Approximately 20% of persons over the age of 65 suffer from depression.
  • Delirium is characterized by a sudden, acute and fluctuating onset of confusion, disturbance in attention, disorganized thinking and/or decline in level of consciousness. Delirium is most often caused by underlying infection such as a urinary tract infection, medication toxicity or other illness. It is usually reversible with treatment and is often worse at night.

Individuals with dementia are susceptible to both delirium and depression. Unfortunately, it can go unrecognized because many symptoms are shared and may be dismissed as the natural progression of the dementia.

Unlike the subtle decline with dementia, the confusion of delirium fluctuates over the day, at times dramatically. The hallmark separating delirium from underlying dementia is inattention. The individual simply cannot focus on one idea or task.

Depression is more prevalent in the early stages of dementia and the symptoms can mimic the cognitive impairment of delirium and dementia. Apathy, social withdrawal, loss of interest in activities and impaired thinking are symptoms shared by dementia and depression. The person with dementia may not be able to articulate feelings associated with depression, while the depressed person may be willing and able to talk about it.

To detect depression in dementia, it is important to read the nonverbal cues and body language, as well as discussion with those who are familiar with the person’s usual mood and behavior. While the cognitive decline with dementia cannot be reversed, depression can be treated and may improve the quality of life for the individual.

Whether you suspect dementia, depression or delirium the first step is to seek a medical evaluation and assessment.

  1. Review possible medication errors, reactions or contradictions.
  2. Investigate a referral for supportive counseling.
  3. Create a calm soothing environment.
  4. Encourage a balanced diet, exercise and hydration.
  5. Vaccinate against influenza and pneumonia.

Oxford HealthCare offers numerous home care programs that can provide you the help, support and relief you need, so you can enjoy time with your loved one and continue to care for them at home.   If you have questions, our Memory Care Program Coordinator will be happy to assist you.

References:

American Psychiatric Association (2000) Diagnostic and Statistical manual of Mental Disorders

Susan K Schultz MD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, University of Iowa

 

Pets Makes Us Happier and Healthier

By Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects 

“Happiness is a warm puppy,” said Charles M. Schulz, the creator of Peanuts.

He, along with every pet lover out there, knows from experience what scientific research is now proving: pets make us happier and healthier.

Pets are also great conversation starters. I witnessed this first hand while working for the Missouri Division of Aging. One day, I received a phone call from a concerned niece. Her uncle (Mr. V) lived alone, was not eating right, taking care of himself and just seemed lonely and depressed.

She warned me that her uncle was cantankerous, very independent and reluctant to accept any outside help. Then she wished me luck.

When I arrived, Mr. V was very hesitant to let me in, but finally agreed. It was obvious he did not welcome my company, did not want to talk and certainly did not want any help. How was I going to get through to him?

Looking around I noticed a photograph of a man in hunting gear with an Irish Setter by his side. Could this be the key to reaching Mr. V?

“Who is that?” I asked.

Mr. V told me it was a picture taken several years ago of him and his Irish Setter.

“I have an Irish Setter named Orie,” I told him. That connection changed Mr. V’s demeanor and our meeting. We started sharing dog stories. He told me about the dogs he once had, and I told him all about Orie. When it was time to go, he welcomed a return visit.

Irish Setter Orie

Guess who came along with me on my next visit? I’ll never forget the look on Mr. V’s face when he opened the door and saw Orie. I am convinced Orie knew Mr. V needed him. Orie sat right beside Mr. V who petted him the entire time we talked. By the end of our visit, Mr. V agreed to have a personal care assistant come to help him at home. I agreed to bring Orie back.

Taking Orie to see Mr. V was more than a conversation starter; it was therapeutic. Research is showing that pet therapy can:

  • Lift spirits
  • Encourage communication
  • Increase socialization
  • Reduce loneliness or depression
  • Provide comfort
  • Meet the basic human need of touch

If you, or someone you know, could benefit from a furry friend I urge you to check out pettherapyozarks.org.

Coping with Holidays and Loss

By Renee’ Jenkins, MSW – Oxford Bereavement Coordinator

HolidayTreats

The holiday season is here, and for many people, this is an exciting season. But, if you have lost a loved one or friend, this season can be painful. The ache intensifies and the loneliness can quickly overwhelm you. Here are a few suggestions to help you make the most of the holiday season, along with helping you move forward.

1. Be Good to Yourself

Sadness zaps your energy; so, don’t push yourself. You might be exhausted after a day of shopping or attempting to “make merry”. Try spending a quiet evening at home, doing something you enjoy. This may be a more nurturing use of your time, so you can stay healthy.

2. Blend New Traditions with the Old

Rituals from past holidays may magnify the sense of loss of your friend or family member. But, sometimes these traditions may feel comforting. Decide what traditions you want to repeat, and consider establishing new holiday traditions. You could take a trip to a country inn, go to church or synagogue, volunteer to help at a convalescent home or soup kitchen. It often helps to get together with a friend, who is also experiencing a loss in their life, for extra comfort and support.

3. Acknowledge your Loss

Attempting to bypass feelings requires enormous energy, and it is not a good way to heal grief. If this is the first holiday season since losing your loved one or friend, it’s important to talk with others about how you are feeling. Don’t be afraid to shed a tear to your family and friends. Acknowledging your true feelings can provide much-needed relief. One way to acknowledge your loss is to do something special. Put together a photo album of your loved one, visit the grave, light a candle for him or her, or write a poem.

4. Listen to your Inner Voice

Your instincts may tell you that today would be good day to have a friend over for coffee, or that you should skip the big New Year’s Eve bash. Pay attention to this inner voice—it’s one of the best friends you have! Intuition may lead you to the perfect person or activity for that moment, while keeping you from situations that are not helpful. This is a time to respond to your own needs, not to other’s expectations of you.

5. Make It Okay to be Alone

While isolating yourself from others is not always a good idea, there are times when solitude is vital to the healing process. During your alone times, explore new ideas on what you enjoy doing. Remember, loneliness is triggered by the idea that “everyone else” is having a good time, and you are alone. Don’t forget, you are in good company with family and friends to support you.

6. Get Help in Making the Holidays Festive for the Kids

Children, especially those younger than 13, grieve in a more intermittent way than adults. That’s why they are still excited to celebrate the holiday season. They will likely want to keep the traditions alive and enjoy the festivities. Ask your family members and friends to help provide that “holiday spirit” for the children in your family. It’s also okay to let children see your sadness. It might help them with their own grief when they see you experiencing the same feelings they are experiencing.


You are welcome to join us for our Grief Support Groups available in Southwest Missouri. You can also contact our Bereavement Department at (417) 883-7500 for more information. If you live outside of Southwest Missouri, and would like more information about a Grief Support Group near you, please visit www.griefshare.org.