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How To Handle Season Depression, Isolation

How To Handle Season Depression, Isolation

The winter season is upon us and the colder weather may bring individuals further into isolation. Many Americans have been hunkering down amid the COVID-19 pandemic since early March and this prolonged isolation may take its toll on individuals, especially the elderly population. 

According to the American Psychological Association, more than 12 million Americans over age 65 live alone. Beyond the feelings of stress and anxiety that may accompany wintertime and the upcoming holidays, families are facing the death of loved ones, grave illnesses, prolonged isolation, and loss of income due to the pandemic. These stressors can make the holidays blues feel even bluer this year, and Swain Community Hospital’s Senior Life Solutions program is here to help older adults in the community.  

Amanda Fugate, Program Director for Senior Life Solutions said, “This time of year can be a reminder of lost loved ones, lack of access to family traditions, or other changes that may bring about stress and anxiety.  These feelings may be exacerbated by the stressors of the pandemic. Many seniors in our community who are practicing social distancing due to COVID-19 may not see their family during the holidays this year.  As a community, we must step up and identify individuals in need of support.”

Senior Life Solutions is an intensive outpatient group therapy program designed to meet the unique needs of older adults typically ages 65 and older struggling with depression and anxiety often related to aging.  They focus on helping seniors in the community navigate difficult life transitions and regain their quality of life not just during the holiday season, but year-round. 

For many, the holiday blues will bring temporary feelings of depression or anxiety during the holiday season; however, for some those feelings will linger.  Individuals who are already struggling with their emotional health should take steps of extra self-care during this time. 

Below is a list of suggestions that may help counteract the holiday blues:

  • Get enough sleep or rest
  • Spend time speaking with supportive people on the phone
  • Don’t drink alcohol if you are feeling down
  • Take walks
  • Stay within budget
  • Set reasonable expectations
  • Do something you enjoy whether it be walking the dog, or sewing a new scarf
  • Enjoy all the wonderful food but don’t binge
  • Find a local organization who is organizing a phone bank to call seniors who are isolated by COVID-19
  • Celebrate a loved one’s life by sharing positive memories
  • Forgive yourself, we all make mistakes

For some, the holidays can bring on temporary depression, and for others, it may be chronic. If you or someone you know is struggling with symptoms of the winter blues or a difficult life transition, contact Swain Community Hospital’s Senior Life Solutions at 828.488.4044. 

Lucretia F. Stargell is the Vice President of Professional Services at Harris Regional Hospital and Swain Community Hospital, both are Duke LifePoint Hospitals.

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