If you are a caregiver, the holiday season may bring less Peace and Good Tidings, and more Stress and Frustration. If you are already feeling overwhelmed with caregiving responsibilities, the holidays may feel more of a burden than a joy. I think it is fair to say that the holidays are stressful for most of us, and so the challenge - especially for caregivers - is to manage the stress, not to expect that we can alleviate it completely.
Following are a few ideas for caregivers to manage stress during the holidays.
Holiday Stress Assessment: This chart provides a way to organize your holiday activities (from decorating the tree/home, to holiday cards) and determine which ones to continue and which ones you may feel you can let go (or delegate). I would encourage you to use this chart as a guide, and add in your own holiday activities.
Holiday Shopping: Avoid the mall! Just kidding, you may love the mall and find it extremely relaxing… However, there are other ways to shop without having to cope with the crowds. I am a huge fan of Amazon.com, but that is only one option - the online shopping possibilities are virtually (no pun intended) limitless. Another shopping idea is to streamline – purchase the same gift for many people on your list. My sister-in-law works for a company that sells fabulous natural products, and I have purchased a case of my favorite body cream and have given it to most of my friends and co-workers for birthdays and other holidays. There is no rule that says everyone needs a different gift!
Manage your expectations: If you have an idea that the holidays are going to be the way they have “ALWAYS been” regardless of the changes in your caregiving circumstances – there is a good likelihood that you will be disappointed. Here is an article with some suggestions on this topic (although the author is speaking to caring for someone with Alzheimer's - the suggestions are applicable to any caregiving experience).
Family dynamics: If your relatives and friends haven’t seen your loved one for some time, it may be a good idea to prepare them for what to expect from their condition, so that everyone is as relaxed as possible during a holiday visit. This can be in regard to appearance (for example, weight loss) behavior (for example, agitation or wandering), or any number of other variables that might come as a shock if family members aren’t prepared. This is especially true for children who may not recognize their family member or may become fearful or anxious if they exhibit behavior that seems strange to them.
Healthy boundaries: If you are a caregiver, it is likely that you might have a tiny habit of putting others needs before your own. The holidays may be the most important time for you to set limits. This can be in the form of deciding to go to a party, but making a choice to leave early and watch Netflix (and picking up a cake at the store instead of baking). Perhaps suggesting that family stay in a hotel this year because you have enough on your hands with your caregiving responsibilities. Just because someone asks you to do something does not mean you need to do it. Boundaries are simply paying attention to what feels right for you. So when you are asked for something (especially during the holidays), listen to what your gut is telling you. If you have read my previous blogs you may know that I am a huge fan of Anne Lamott, and she tells us that “’No’ is a complete sentence.”
I would love to hear your ideas – please post in the comments section.
I hope that your holidays are filled with much joy and some rest.