Alone for the holidays? There are plenty of ways to find joy
The words in the Craigslist ad are heartbreaking.
"Do you know anyone out there that goes years and years being alone for the holidays?" it reads.
"No family. No traditions. No one to eat dinner with.
"If you are willing to open up your home to a person like me … I would love to hear from you!"
Running an ad to find a family with which to spend the holidays shows how sad and lonely some people get this time of year.
It's tough to avoid trying to get in the holiday spirit.
Stores are bedecked in full Christmas regalia even before the ghosts of Halloween disappear. There's an overwhelming desire to feel that elusive holiday joy we once felt — or dreamed about.
Pssst. Here's a secret. Finding the holiday spirit is elusive to many of us. Even those who aren't sad and lonely can find it hard to feel the kind of exuberance the Griswold family sought in the movie Christmas Vacation.
"We're kicking off our fun, old-fashioned family Christmas by heading out into the country in the old front-wheel drive sleigh to embrace the frosty majesty of the winter landscape and select that most important of Christmas symbols," Clark Griswold says to his family packed in the station wagon — and not happy about it — on their way to cut down a tree.
Hard as Clark (Chevy Chase) tries to create the perfect holiday, it's one disaster after another. (If watching this movie isn't yet a tradition for you, this year is a great time to start.)
Understanding why the holidays make some people feel lonely is the place to begin feeling better.
"Holidays are always a time of the year that help bring loved ones and families together. But, when those special people in one's life live at a distance or are unable to be a part of the holidays, it can make celebrating more difficult," said Genevieve Faulk, a licensed clinical social worker and owner of Aging Care Advocates Inc. The agency provides services for the elderly throughout the Tampa Bay area.
Older adults have an especially hard time, she said. In addition to mourning the loss of loved ones, they are also often separated from the family they have left.
But, many can find joy celebrating within their communities.
"One of the easiest ways to help celebrate within the community is to look for community or senior centers that are offering holiday meals," Faulk said. The meals are often affordable and, more importantly, provide a social outlet for those who are alone.
Older adults living in senior communities can also find joy and companionship by sharing a meal.
"Why not spend it together by having a festive potluck?" Faulk said. It's not only a way to have a great meal without doing it all yourself, it's also a way to make new traditions, new memories and new friends.
Or, people who are lonely can find joy by bringing joy to others.
"Another great way to celebrate the holidays is to help give back to the community," Faulk said. There are many organizations, such as Meals on Wheels, that can use extra help during the busy holiday season.
"These are all fun, easy ways to get out of one's normal daily routine and to enjoy the holiday. They all provide some social aspect to keep from feeling alone during the holiday season," she said.
Contact Patti Ewald at email@example.com.
© 2018 Tampa Bay Times
Here are some suggestions:
Do, eat, watch what you want.
Don't avoid cherished memories, re-create them.
Wishing for a turkey? Make one. Who cares if it's just you eating it? Get a small one or buy a turkey breast. You'll have leftovers for a week — or food to share with friends for a postholiday "Friendsgiving." Make that favorite dish your grandmother made during the holidays.
Want to curl up on the couch and watch a favorite movie or binge-watch a show you've been wanting to see on Netflix? Do it.
Start new traditions
Do things you've never done before but can see yourself doing every year during the holidays.
Take a walk. Take your dog for a walk.
Think about getting a dog to take for a walk.
Start the day off with a mimosa instead
of coffee. Christmas cookies instead of oatmeal.
Begin your day by watching Christmas Vacation. Guaranteed to make you laugh.
Have — or go to — a party
If you are feeling lonely, there is one thing you have to remember: You are not alone. Many, many people spend the holidays by themselves. Get together with friends who are single. Check out upcoming holiday events that interest you. Stay busy.
Catch up with friends
Go through your contact list and drop notes to friends and family you haven't talked to in a while.
Or, better yet, video-chat. That way you can get your bit of holiday cheer without having to listen to anyone snoring in an easy chair or watching a football game you have no interest in later in the day. It's like having your turkey and eating it, too.
Tackle a to-do or two
Be productive. Happiness really is a clean closet or an organized junk drawer. Paint the kitchen — or paint a picture. Give yourself a feeling of accomplishment.
One of the best ways to feel joy is to bring it to others. You can help serve meals somewhere or man a crisis line. Be a visitor to someone who is much worse off than you are in a hospital or nursing home. Maybe the local pet shelter could use some help over the holidays.
Have a Friendsgiving
Many of us can't be with family over the holidays.
But, we can substitute friends for family on Thanksgiving Day — or even later in the week for a leftovers potluck.
Invite friends you already have and also co-workers or neighbors you'd like to become friends with.
Playing cards or board games can be a good ice-breaker.
CHASE AWAY THE BLUES
Most everyone agrees that loneliness is exacerbated by the holidays. The most important thing is to acknowledge how you feel — and know it's okay to feel a twinge of sadness. Just don't let yourself wallow in the blues.
Try following this advice from the National Council on Aging to boost your spirits:
Look for the joy: Keeping a positive attitude is key. Focus on the present and be grateful for what you have in your life. Appreciate the things you can do with your current physical and mental capacities.
Appreciate others: Staying socially connected is vital. If you aren't spending the holidays with family or friends, keep active and engaged by volunteering, going to a senior center, joining a hobby club or social group, or taking a class.
Eat healthy: It is tempting to overindulge during the holidays. Be thankful you have the wisdom of age to still savor a holiday meal while sticking to sensible portions and dietary restrictions.
Keep moving: Exercise positively affects your mood, sleep, appetite and overall wellness. Moving improves circulation, which improves brain health. The key is to move whatever you can for as long as you can, even if you are limited by being in a bed or chair.
Get enough sleep: Holiday stress or a change in schedule can disrupt sleep patterns. Try to follow your regular sleep schedule, get some exercise and fresh air during the day or even take an afternoon nap.
And, by the way, even if you have the blues, they should be short-lived. If sadness, fatigue, loss of interest or unexplained physical discomfort lasts for more than a week or two, you may have clinical depression and should see a doctor. Depression is a treatable illness and not a normal stage in the aging process.