While holidays bring opportunities for joy, cherished customs and new experiences, they can also bring feelings of overwhelm with caregiving tasks. Stressed-out or busy caregivers may view traditional holiday preparations as more of an energy drain than joyful. If the very notion of this season is sapping your holiday spirit, read on:
Doing it ALL can make it harder: Sometimes we do things simply because we always have. If you’re holding the holiday gathering, give yourself permission to ask for help with your celebration to do list.
A friend, who is caring for her husband, announced to her family that she’s not hosting Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Her family didn’t hesitate to step in and split the entertaining and decorating.
To get started, ask yourself: “Would the holidays be the same without a certain tradition? Is there something I want to do differently? Do I do it out of habit or joy? Do I have a choice or a sense of obligation? And can the job be shared?”
Plan ahead: If you have family travelling to see you and others, it can be helpful to have a conversation about the person you are caring for. Discuss the holiday schedule as it relates to your own schedule and the care recipient’s needs. If the person you are caring for tires easily or is experiencing cognitive decline or other challenges, limit the number of activities and the length of time of events. Noise and confusion of a large family gathering, or community event can lead to irritability, undesired behaviour or exhaustion – for everyone.
A little R & R goes a long way: Ask family or friends to provide you with a break or the opportunity for a change of scenery for the person you are caring for. A caregiver shared her approach, “We go to Victoria every year to see our son. He comes up to get my husband and gives me an extra day. Then I drive down and enjoy Victoria for the day. It’s a win for everyone.” Another caregiver shares her advice, “Making time for myself is sometimes as simple as enjoying holiday decorations with my family or taking a walking tour of the neighbourhood lights.”
Be grateful: Without trying to sound like my Aunt Mimi (who likes to find the silver-lining in trying situations) or too cliché, aren’t the holidays about sharing and spending time with the people we value the most? Research on well-being and gratitude tells us that finding small ways to be grateful or showing appreciation for someone in our life helps us cope with more stressful situations (like holiday stress).
The holidays can feel like a frenzied whirlwind and this holds equally true for caregivers. The balance scale is going to fluctuate between caregiving and caring for yourself. Give yourself the gift of kindness and permission to do less this holiday season.