Although the holiday season is typically wrapped in visions of warmth, friendship and love, having too many expectations for “the perfect day” can usher in an unwanted holiday guest: Stress.
Terri Waldman, director of Tucson Medical Center’s new Geropsychiatric Center at Handmaker, shared her tips for an enjoyable holiday at an open house for the new 16-bed unit.
The facility will provide short-term stabilization for older adults experiencing acute emotional and behavioral health disorders when it opens in January.
- Celebrate the entirety of the season. Instead of pinning too many hopes on one day, remember the moments of beauty or kindness that have taken place throughout the whole month.
- Be realistic. The idyllic family environment popularized in 1950s-era TV shows is not typically representative of lives today. And that’s OK. Family members may not share similar lifestyles or outlooks, but if it’s too much to ask to celebrate their quirks and whims, it’s still going to be easier if you can accept their imperfections.
- Enjoy. Oh heck, even indulge a little. But also look for balance. If you’ve eaten a little more than you normally would, take a walk with family or friends. Take 60 seconds to breathe. Grab some friends and sing a carol, however badly. If you feel a little stronger and a little more centered, you’ll have an easier time brushing off the blues.
- Ask for help. If baking that last loaf of pumpkin bread is going to put you over the edge, recruit some help. If you’ve got a stack of presents that need to be wrapped, and you can’t do that and make the scalloped potatoes at the same time, send a friend to the store for some gift bags. Maybe opt for a potluck instead hosting a feast on your own. Sometimes, skating through the holidays is easier if you’re holding onto someone for support.
- Acknowledge transitions. Life can sometimes be about loss, and that loss can be acutely felt at times like this. That’s normal and expected and your heart has no obligation to be jolly. Take the time to celebrate cherished memories but be open to new rituals. If you find you are having a hard time coping and can’t shake the sadness, though, don’t try to tough it out. It may be time to see a clinician.
“Ultimately, the holidays shouldn’t be about having the perfect decorations or the perfect presents or the perfect dinner,” said Waldman, who has 30 years of experience in assisting older people with behavioral disorders. “If the dog takes off with the turkey leg and your father-in-law has a little too much eggnog and the grandchildren start pelting each other with flour, just breathe through it, hold onto the real intent of the season, and just be glad you’ll have a far more entertaining story to tell for years to come.”
The TMC Geropsychiatric Center specializes in treating acute emotional and behavioral disorders related to aging, such as depression, dementia and adjustment difficulties. It is part of a broader seniors program at TMC that provides continuing care, education, support groups, health coaching and more.
For more information, please visit https://www.tmcaz.com/TucsonMedicalCenter/Seniors