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Loneliness around the holidays makes me sad

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Dear Life Coach,

I am a 65-year-old Vincentian female living alone in the US where I have been all my life, (although for the past 10 years I have been visiting St Vincent every two years, for six months at a time). My mother migrated to the US with my brother (age three at the time) and me (being an infant). I am now retired. I was married and had two daughters, but my mother, husband and younger daughter are deceased, and my older daughter lives in England with her family.{{more}}So much has changed for me over the past seven years. Now, I am mostly alone and I tend to do alright by myself, but I have noticed in recent years that I have become progressively saddened by the holidays, especially at Christmas time, and this sadness continues through the long, cold days of winter.

Lonely & Blue (LB)

Dear LB,

You still love the family you have lost and you miss them terribly.

Your Situation:

A number of factors are at work here: holiday blues, potential seasonal affective disorder, grief, loneliness and isolation, phototherapy, stress reduction, and exercise, among others. These I will address briefly.

Holiday Blues

Many people worldwide suffer from holiday blues (regardless of climatic conditions) due to a variety of reasons, including: 1. Seeing other people happy with the ones they love, especially when they themselves are lonely during the holidays 2. The stress and anxiety associated with shopping and entertaining family and friends 3. Fatigue from all the work that comes with the holidays (cooking, baking, cleaning etc).

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder refers to depression that occurs during the winter (when daylight is much shorter) due to an abnormal response to melatonin (a hormone that helps to regulate sleep-wake cycles). Symptoms include: sadness, lethargy, drowsiness, and carbohydrate cravings.

Grief

Grief occurs when a person becomes sad, lonely, and numb, due to the loss of a loved one. You have had multiple losses over the past decade: your mother, husband and younger daughter through death, and your first child through migration.

Isolation & Loneliness

Isolation is the feeling of being alone and uncared for in the world, which results when an individual has not been able to develop intimate relationships with others. Loneliness refers to the thoughts and feelings we experience when we do not have the close relationship(s) we desire. You are alone most of the time, so you are in need of companionship or human interaction. You have neither forged new relationships since you lost your family, nor maintained old ones.

What to Do:

Light/Phototherapy

You may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder. If this is the case, sitting in front of bright fluorescent lights at least once each day early in the morning for at least half an hour will bring some relief. Other strategies include: 1. Going for morning walks 2. Spending at least a half an hour outdoors each day 3. Taking a vacation in a sunny place (leaving two weeks before Winter and returning during Spring). So, consider visiting St Vincent during the winter months.

Medical Consultation

There is some possibility that melatonin pills could help to readjust your melatonin secretion and so help to reduce your seasonal depression. This would be something to discuss with your doctor in order to determine if it is right for you.

Grieve Positively/ Commemorate Lost Loved Ones

The festive season is a time for traditions and warm memories of loved ones that are no longer here.

Find ways to honour their memory in a positive way e.g. cooking foods they liked, upholding traditions they maintained, watching home movies they were a part of, reviewing old albums with their pictures etc.

Connect with Relatives and Friends

At Christmas time you could try to connect with (call, email, or Skype) extended family members that you have not spoken to for years, or have never met, e.g. your brother and his family. You could also consider visiting with your daughter in England (although she is in a similar climate). You could also invite friends or neighbours over.

Do Something Festive

If you have no relatives, friends or neighbours with whom you can share the holidays, you may consider doing something festive such as: 1. Attending church 2. Giving someone a gift 3. Donating to a charitable organization, e.g. Salvation Army or Operation Christmas Child 4. Attending a Christmas concert 5. Volunteering at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter.

Get a Pet

Pets such as dogs and cats make wonderful companions since they are living creatures in which we invest our time, energy, and affection, and they are able to return our affection to some degree. So you may consider getting yourself a pet.

Daily Exercise

Do some form of mild exercise every day that involves moving your arms and legs, stretching and lifting light weights. When we exercise, it releases chemicals in our bodies that helps to improve our mood, soothes us, and helps to reduce our stress.

Reduce Stress

Plan ahead for the holidays. Do not try to accomplish more than what is reasonable for one person on a daily basis. Recognize that everything does not have to be perfect at Christmas. Enlist help from others when preparing for family gatherings, and avoid all family conflicts.

LB, while no one can ever replace your family, sharing love at Christmas is one way to honour those you have lost.

Life Coach

DYNACII

Need help with relationship and other problems? Ask DYNACII’s Life Coach. Email your questions to dynacii@gmail.com. To Chat with the Life Coach, visit: http://www.dynacinternational.com. Dynamic Action Center International Inc. (DYNACII) a non-governmental organization committed to social and spiritual empowerment.

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