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Prioritizing Your Seasonal Time: Why Seniors Don’t Have to Say Yes to Every Holiday Party

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Prioritizing Your Seasonal Time: Why Seniors Don’t Have to Say Yes to Every Holiday Party

The holidays come with a variety of activities and obligations for each person, with some people feeling more pressure to attend events, parties and gatherings than other. But the hectic pace of the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas can have implications for mental health and happiness — even for seniors who are living retirement years in an assisted living community. Managing your time and resources wisely helps you enjoy the holidays without experiencing negative effects to your mental and physical health.

You Don't Have to Say Yes to Everything

The first thing seniors (and adults of all ages) need to know about holiday obligations is: You don't have to say yes. While you might feel you'll let someone down if you don't attend their party or join in on their scheduled community event, most people will understand if you politely decline because you have other events scheduled or simply need some time to rest.

Sometimes, it's us who want to attend everything so badly because we genuinely enjoy the holiday hustle. But remember that you can't shuffle all the way through the season without appropriate sleep and other self-care. Make a list of all the events and invitations for the season and make priorities, noting which events you can skip if you feel the need.

The Spoon Theory

Christine Miserandino created the spoon metaphor to explain what it's like to live with a physical or mental illness or disability. And while not all seniors experience such ailments, the spoon theory may resonate with many older adults.

Miserandino says each person starts the day with a certain number of spoons. Young, healthy people may have a seemingly unlimited number of spoons. Someone with a chronic illness (she has lupus) or who is older may have a more limited number of spoons. Each thing you do during the day — whether a pleasant task or something trying — takes some of your spoons. You can only get spoons back through rest or other self-care.

She points out that if you have a limited number of spoons, you can still enjoy a happy, productive life, but you must also manage your spoons. That's true all year, but especially during holidays, when we might be tempted to try to use more spoons than we have.

Managing Holiday Scheduling

Seniors who want to get the most out of the holidays without digging themselves into a spoon shortfall can use this scheduling tip to help.

Create a daily schedule in three parts for the holidays.

  1. Draw three columns on a piece of paper.
  2. Down the side, write numbers for the days starting just before Thanksgiving and continuing through Christmas or New Years (use two pages if necessary.)
  3. Label the columns Morning, Afternoon, and Evening.
  4. Fill in seasonable obligations and all appointments.
  5. Evaluate each day as you fill it in: if you have something in all three columns (and it's not a day-long event), consider prioritizing to remove one item so you have time for yourself that day.

Consider meal and food needs as well as naps or rest when planning for the holidays. Make sure you always have a plan to take care of your needs even while you're enjoying fellowship with others this season.