Posted by Able News, Lisa Beth Miller, LCSW-R, BCD, Outreach and Referral Coordinator at Lighthouse Guild

With holidays fast approaching, many people are planning gatherings with friends and family. Although these can be a delightful source of joy and happiness, the celebration can also trigger negative feelings. People with vision loss have added challenges to manage.

For some, the holidays represent a time of love and togetherness. For others, the season sparks overwhelming feelings of sadness and loss. Depression can develop from unrealistic expectations, unemployment, memories of lost loved ones, relationship status or loneliness. Getting through the holidays and coping afterwards with the “post-holiday blues” can be challenging.

Also, shortening days bring less exposure to natural light, which can affect hormones and mood. Some people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder, a form of depression, in late fall and winter. 

Holidays call on people to be cheerful, buy gifts and forgive past hurts, ready or not. The dimmed lighting of holiday parties can make it more difficult to recognize faces. Social contacts increase with people who may not understand the needs of those with vision impairment. Cooking, shopping, and traveling require more effort.

There are steps that people can take to help make the holidays more enjoyable and less stressful.

Some things people can do to ease the stress include: plan travel details and alternate routes carefully and in advance; bring along necessary devices for reading; shop before the crowds; limit celebrations to a few select ones; try to be patient and ask for help if you need it. 

It’s not unusual for some to feel sadness, anger and grief during the holiday season.  People should acknowledge these feelings and realize that it’s OK to take time to cry or express emotions.

For those who feel lonely or isolated, reaching out and seeking support and companionship can help. Connecting with friends or finding a new community or volunteering to help others can help some people feel better. 

The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals change, too. People can choose a few to hold on to and be open to creating new ones. 

Setting aside differences and trying to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all expectations can make all the difference. People should make every attempt to set aside grievances for a more appropriate discussion time. Chances are others feel the effects of holiday stress, too.

Setting a budget for gift and food shopping. Deciding how much one can afford to spend and sticking to a budget is important. People should not try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. 

If despite best efforts, a person feels persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable, hopeless, or unable to face routine chores, they should seek professional help from a doctor or mental health professional. 

Coping during the holidays is not easy but no one has to do it alone. Professional help is available through a number of resources. Information is available from Lighthouse Guild Behavioral Health.