For many of us, December marks the start of holiday gatherings and festivities, making it feel like “the most wonderful time of the year.” Some family caregivers, however, may find themselves singing a different tune (think: “He’s a mean one, Mr. Grinch”).
While holidays bring opportunities for joy, traditions and new experiences, they can also bring feelings of being overwhelmed with caregiving tasks. Stressed-out caregivers may view traditional holiday preparations as more of an energy drain than a joy. Some caregivers are not be able to participate as fully as they would like in activities they cherish.
If notions of the holiday season are zapping your merriment, read on.
Know Your Holiday Hot Buttons
Are there holiday activities or toxic relationships that trigger stress or unhappy memories? Are you feeling grief or loss that overcomes you at certain times of the day? Do unhelpful relatives arrive for the holidays and criticize your caregiving?
Consider the following strategies:
- Avoid thorny conversation topics when family gathers
- Limit your exposure to – or even avoid – certain places, events or people. If this isn’t possible, give yourself extra time to get into the right headspace and always have an exit strategy.
- Find a place, group or person where you feel safe sharing your grief and anger, and other ways to dispel stress.
Share Your Wish List
Make sure you are on the receiving end of some joy, too, by sharing your wish list. What’s important is finding a way to relish the holidays without burning the candle at both ends. A little R&R can go long way. Ask family or friends to provide respite care or give the person you are caring for a change of scenery. Making time for you can be as simple as enjoying holiday decorations with family or taking a tour of the neighbourhood lights.
Be Like the Elf on the Shelf
There’s a reason the Elf on the Shelf is always smiling… she doesn’t do anything! Perhaps you can’t sit on the sidelines with a smile pasted on your face, but you can evaluate which holiday traditions you can realistically take on, which ones you want to continue and which ones you can live without. Sometimes we do things simply because we always have. Or because traditions are tied with warm and special memories. If you’re hosting the holiday gathering, give yourself permission to ask for help with your to do list. Alternatively, suggest a new tradition or ask someone else to host.
Be kind to yourself. Even the happiest elves have moments when it all feels like too much to handle. Holidays can be emotionally and physically draining. The tendency can be to draw inward. Instead, try reaching out to your trusted circle of support for a little extra TLC.
The balance scale is going to swing between caring for those in need and caring for yourself; between loving memories of past holidays and some sadness in remembering the loss of loved ones.
Enjoy some of your holiday favourites and, above all, be kind to yourself this season.