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Take care of your health and well-being this holiday season

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From TV commercials and greeting cards to music and movies, we are regularly told that the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year. And for many of us, December is indeed a time of joy and laughter that is spent in the company of loved ones.

But the holidays can also be a time of enormous stress. There are presents to be purchased and wrapped, meals to be cooked, house guests to be entertained, and a To Do list that never seems to end. We may envision the perfect family dinner with all of our loved ones gathered around the table. But in reality, it may not be possible for everyone to celebrate together or there may be conflicts between family members that put a damper on the festivities.

Some of us will face additional challenges this year that will make the holidays even more difficult. For those of us who are grieving the passing of a loved one, the holidays can intensify feelings of loss and evoke memories of holidays gone by. Others may be facing a lack of social support, employment or housing that will make this time of year especially difficult. For anyone who is struggling to make ends meet, the holidays can be a time of financial pressure.

Older adults often face loneliness and isolation over the holiday season. Their loved ones and friends may have fallen ill or passed away, they may have moved to a new living environment, or mobility and other health concerns may limit their ability to connect with others. These life changes and transitions can be difficult to manage, and feelings of isolation and loneliness can easily take hold - especially during the holidays.

In short, this time of year can be difficult and overwhelming for all of us. It is no wonder so many of us experience anxiety, stress, and depression. So how can we beat the holiday blues and take better care of our health this year?

Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s Thrive Over 55 tip sheet identifies five simple tips to take care of your mind, body and spirit which can easily be put to use this holiday season:

  1. Discover – Learn something new or try a new hobby. At this time of year, you could try a new holiday craft or test out a new holiday recipe.
  2. Get Up and Go – Being active increases muscle and bone strength while enhancing your mental well-being. Bundle up and enjoy a nice winter walk!
  3. Share Your Gifts – Give back to help others. Look for ways to share your skills and expertise. You could help a friend with their gift wrapping or donate some baking to a holiday bake sale in our community.
  4. Reflect – Reminisce with loved ones about past holidays, look through an old holiday photo album, or jot down a favourite holiday memory to share.
  5. Gratitude – Write down three good things that happened in your day and what you are grateful for this holiday season. Being thankful can give your immune system a boost!

You may want to start thinking about new traditions to take away some of the stress of the season. Instead of buying numerous presents for each family member, try starting a family gift exchange. Or if you are alone over the holidays, consider volunteering your time to help others – it is a great way to meet people and stay connected to your community.

In recognition of the loneliness and isolation faced by many older adults, The Vic Foundation and Victoria Lifeline have once again partnered with Home Instead Senior Care to brighten the holidays for those in need through the annual gift drive Be A Santa To A Senior. Thanks to the generosity of our community, thousands of older adults will receive a holiday gift and a friendly visit through this incredible program.

No matter how you choose to celebrate, I hope you take some time to take care of yourself over the coming weeks. On behalf of The Vic Foundation, I wish you a happy and healthy holiday season.

Erin Girouard is the Communications & Public Relations Manager at Victoria General Hospital Foundation. This article is meant to be informational in nature and should not replace the advice of a trained healthcare professional.